The research, published in the journal Current Biology, found that children from religious families were less likely to share things with other kids and are more likely to support harsher punishments than their non-religious fellows.
This contradicts the traditional assumption that a religious upbringing makes children less selfish and more kind-hearted towards others, The Sun quoted the study as saying.
The study was carried on 1,170 children of varying ages, with around 43 per cent identified as Muslim, 24 per cent Christian and 28 per cent non-religious. The children took part in a task where they were asked to decide how many stickers they would like to share with an anonymous or random individuals from the same school and of a similar ethnic group.
Those who came from non-religious families were significantly more willing to share.
Children from Muslim households were also found to be stronger supporters of harsher punishment for interpersonal harm, but there was no significant differences between children from Christian and non-religious backgrounds, the study says.
In the study, the parents of children from Christian and Muslim households said they believed their children were “more sensitive” to the injustices towards others, than non-religious children.
Researcher Jean Decety of the University of Chicago in Illinois said their findings challenge the widespread tradition that people who are religious do more good than those people who are non religious.
It is generally admitted that religion shapes people’s moral judgments and social behaviour, but the relation between religiosity and morality is actually a contentious one, and not always positive,” Decety said.
The children in the study were aged between five and 12 and came from the US, Canada, Jordan, Turkey, South Africa and China.