Due to changes in family structures, such as low birth rates, an increase in the number of dual-income families, and the emergence of various family types, opportunities for character education at home have diminished (Cha and Na 2016
; Kim et al. 2015
). Moreover, young children are immersed in TV, smart phones, and computer games, losing the ability to plan and enjoy their playtime by themselves, and are gradually losing opportunities for natural character formation with their friends through play (Choi and Yousun 2015
). In modern society, in which the self-centered approach is prevalent, young children have come to learn selfishness instead of caring and respect of others (Cha and Na 2016
), making it difficult for children to form character and happiness amid the feverish developments in childhood education (Choi and Yousun 2015
). Furthermore, exposure to adverse life experiences—maltreatment and violence, loss events, intra-familial problems, school and interpersonal problems—during early life can eventuate physical illness, as well as the developmental of psychopathological disorders including depression, anxiety, antisocial behavior, or suicidal behavior in later development (Serafini et al. 2015
Along with these current factors, the history of education shows the distortion of basic concepts of early childhood education in Korea. Education emphasizes uniform teaching methods and textbook-based education since the introduction in the 1970s of Piaget’s theories of cognitive development. Consequently, because early childhood education has been closely identified with very early education, specialized education, and intellectual education, young children have come to be nurtured with an imbalance between intellectual development on the one hand and aspects of social, emotional and moral development on the other (Roh 2010
Reflecting on the outcomes of such education and searching for a remedy to the various social ills and crimes have led to character education as a solution. For example, the first directive for a national curriculum for young children—Nuri Curriculum—is focused on basic life habits and the development of good character such as order, caring, and cooperation. Subsequently, after recognizing the limitations of recent cognitive-centered education, Korea enacted the Character Education Promotion Act in 2015 (Park 2016
In order to provide proper education in a particular area, it is essential to precisely define the components of education and develop measurement scales for such areas. However, character scales for young children were used after revising scales for elementary students (Kim 2014
; Sohn and Kim 2016
) or translating foreign measurement scales (Kim 2014
). Character scales for young children have begun to be developed only recently (Na and Kim 2014
; Baek and Lim 2015
; Seo et al. 2017
Inadequacy of the factors and questions from the already existing scales was found. Cha and Na
) used a character scale composed of the formation of basic living habits
, community spirit
, physical development
, and social development
based on Conners’ character scale. The composition of these factors, and the disharmony between factors and questions can be problematic—such as the physical development
factor’s inclusion of the questions, “he/she cannot control his/her emotions well” and “he/she cries easily upon minor rebuke or language.” The representative Christian character scale was developed by Good Tree Character School (2007) and consists of 12 factors and 72 questions covering empathy and conscience. The questions in the scale are general character questions excluding Christian elements such as “My child tends to carefully watch his/her surroundings and focus well,” “My child knows he/she has a lot of great strengths,” and “My child can express his/her feelings well.” Furthermore, certain questions in the joy
factor such as “My child treats others as precious and does not speak ill of them,” “My child observes the rules and order of the community he/she belongs to,” and “My child leads an orderly life with good eating habits” are not consistent with the factor name. The factors of young children’s character chosen by recent research is presented in Table 1
It is notable that most of character theories and scales include caring as a factor and that there are scales which include basic living habits and civil spirit as factors.
Early researchers were asked to develop Christian character scales (Jeoung et al. 2013
; Kim 2016
; Park 2012
; Roh 2010
). For example, Park
) was unable to conduct research with young children regarding Christian sharing due to the absence of scales. She suggested a need to develop an evaluation scale for teachers to measure varieties of Christian character. Due to the limitations of early research and requests for the development of a Christian character scale by the advanced researcher, this research aims to develop a teacher-rated Christian character scale for 4- and 5-year-olds and ensure validity. Based on these research objectives, the research questions are:
What are the factors of a Christian character scale for young children?
What is the validity of the Christian character scale for young children?
What is the reliability of the Christian character scale for young children?
4. Discussion and Conclusions
From this research, pursuant to the two validity tests, the pilot test, main test, and statistical analysis, 24 questions within four factors were selected for the Christian character scale for young children. These four factors are piety/spirituality, self-control/harmony, responsibility/independence, and caring/respect. In this study, a high score means well-developed biblically-sound relationships with God, others, and self.
By examining the excluded questions, it was found that Christian character requires a higher-level active aspect covering piety, self-control, responsibility, and caring among others—going beyond universal character attributes such as attentive listening/sympathy, good relationship maintenance, offering help, or resolution of difficulties. Looking at questions in more detail, no. 24 and no. 28 not complaining and pestering when their wishes are not fulfilled and no. 33 and no. 36 not waiting while keeping turns, and with patience in the self-control
factor, are difficult to implement because of the child’s need to go against their will, but nevertheless, their need to be trained. According to Yates and Yates
), individual happiness comes from self-control—one of the Christ-like virtues. Overeating, overcommitting, wasteful spending habits, intemperance of the tongue, weak will, or being a workaholic resulting from a lack of self-discipline might lead to trouble.
No. 35 and no. 39, not changing words and actions in a way advantageous to themselves and keeping promises, are strictly necessary virtues that meet the demands of the times and the countries in which serious ethical and moral issues are becoming social issues. Furthermore, no. 10, not completing his/her tasks till the end, and no. 22, not acknowledging his/her faults and taking responsibilities, which are covered by the responsibility
factor, are important for the same reasons. No. 11 appears to be a desirable question that needs to be further emphasized in Christian character because this researcher believes that conveying the Christian and social values of goodness and righteousness is one of the most important missions of Christian educators. As the people of God “will be called oaks of righteousness…I, the LORD, love justice” (Is 61:3, 8), the substance and heart of the active Christian life is righteousness. Christians are forgiven and reconciled by God’s grace and mercy and then made righteous, so that righteousness would be expressed through Christians’ lives. The fourth Beatitude conveys the idea that persons of good character desire righteousness to be integrated into their daily lives (Gill 2000
Caring has been categorized as a factor, which is a consistent outcome of the fact that it was presented as a factor in earlier character-related research (Baek and Lim 2015
; Jeoung et al. 2013
). It is the character virtue most curricula and scholars chose for young children, as shown in Table 2
and recent dissertations (Oh 2016
; Park 2019
) and research papers (Cho 2016b
; Jahng and Song 2016
; Lim et al. 2019
) on young children that have been published focusing only on caring. Caring is the most basic and important virtue, in that it might be expanded into respect, cooperation, sharing, order, and filial duty (Oh 2016
). The fact that caring is a separate factor in this scale proves the assumption that caring is a foundational virtue of character in general education, as well as Christian character.
A surprising fact is that for questions inquiring about the relationship with God, none was excluded and all of them were bound as a single factor. The relationship with God is the basis of a Christian’s search for the good. Christian ethics of good character should not be separated from theology. Unless God is at the center, behaving ethically is not possible (Gill 2000
). As Gill
), Jeoung et al.
), and Smith
) argued, the relationship with God is the foundation of the Christian’s good character, re-verifying this point in this research is a meaningful finding. A correct relationship with oneself and others is the direct result of the relationship with God, the Creator (Kim 2013
). In this sense, piety indicates the relationship with God, and self-control/harmony and responsibility/independence represent the relationship with self, and caring/respect reflects the relationship with others—all factors of this study cover the realm of relationships.
The significance of this research is that it has developed a Christian character scale for young children, which is appropriate for young children’s development, is theologically sound, and has undergone all the statistical procedures necessary for such a scale development. Secondly, as explained above, although there have been many studies that, after developing and implementing Christian character programs, have failed to verify any effects on character due to the lack of a scale, now, based on this research, studies of young Christian children’s characters will be conducted with greater accuracy and more widely. Lastly, since systematic and differentiated approaches to Christian character education are required (Kim 2012
), it is expected that this study could establish a milestone for what to teach at church, home, and day schools. All children need to learn the virtues of positive character development but, in most cases, this is not a reality. Teachers at every stage, therefore, should know which character virtues need to be learned and how to teach these to children (Stronks and Stronks 2008
). In this sense, the findings of this study might be informative regarding character virtues and content for teachers and leaders who are responsible for the Christian character education of children.
Even though this manuscript is significant, it also has limitations. Data was collected from early-childhood teacher evaluations of young children. There are limits to generalizing the results of the study for rating by Sunday school teachers or parents. In these cases, the use of this scale might be possible after further factor analysis and reliability testing.
It is expected that character education for young children, which is required in society, and a justifiably essential content of Christian education, will gain more attention, be implemented more effectively, and its outcomes will be measured more scientifically and reasonably.