Valerie Michaelson

There are many research questions that call for a consilience between disciplines, which is why I find it exciting to be cross-appointed between the Department of Public Health Sciences and the School of Religion. As a postdoctoral fellow at Queen’s University, my research draws together diverse topics under the wide rubrics of children’s spiritual health. I explore the lived experiences of children, and ask questions about young people find ways to live well, and even to flourish, in a complicated world.

My main project is to lead the qualitative strand of a mixed methods national study that investigates spiritual health as a potential positive mental health asset of Canadian adolescents. I’ve been going across Canada listen to urban Muslim children, secular children in Vancouver, Inuit young people in Nunavut and all kinds of other great kids, trying to understand barriers and facilitators to thriving.

Some of my other projects include exploring children’s connections to nature in relation to their emotional health; trying to understand why church connected children engage in more violent and victim behaviours than their non-connected peers; and in the politically charged conversation around the hijab, asking “What is that experience like for Canadian adolescents?” I work with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and think about the role of religious and spiritual rights in a country in which self-identification with traditional religious frameworks is no longer the normative experience for Canadian young people. And I work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Actions to challenge the religiously motivated support of laws that sanction the corporal punishment of children. Locally, I have been using Youth Participatory Action Research methods to collaborate with young people in order to understand their experiences of networked communication. And internationally, I am working with qualitative data in order to gain insight into the resilience experienced by child Syrian brides in Lebanon.

Crossing disciplinary boundaries between religious studies and the health sciences, and using a diverse range of social sciences methods, I look at young people in their natural environments: the settings (including virtual spaces) in which they learn who they are, engage with the world around them, and make choices about how they will live.




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