Can Children Experience Mediumship? Exploring Research | Mateus Martinez

Mateus Donia Martinez is a Ph.D. candidate at the Social Psychology Graduate Program, University of São Paulo. He has bachelor’s in Psychology (Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo), and a MSc in Social Psychology (University of São Paulo). Since childhood, Mateus felt intrigued by mediumship, observing, and experiencing it sometimes. In psychology, he discovered a rich resource for studying parapsychological experiences. Currently, he has been dedicated to the research of altered states of consciousness, dissociation, and mediumship, especially in childhood.

The case of the Fox sisters (linked to the emergence of Spiritism), the story of the boy Cole Sear (the protagonist of “The Sixth Sense”), and the cases of two well-known Brazilian mediums, Chico Xavier and Divaldo Franco, illustrate mediumship in childhood. Also, Flournoy (1900) writes that during Hélène Smith’s childhood and adolescence she expressed some spontaneous phenomena, indicative of a latent mediumship to be developed later in her life when initiated into Spiritism.

Despite research on past life memories, where children are much more studied, at a first sight, mediumship phenomena are under-researched. The objective of this study was to search for and analyze research about mediumistic phenomena lived by children. The data was taken from the Web of Science, PsycInfo, PubMed, Scopus and Scielo databases. A total of ten studies were found. For the term “mediumship” two empirical studies were found and eight studies for “spirit possession”. Of these, six are empirical and two are literature reviews. Of the total, six were addressed to directly investigate children and four accessed adult’s childhood data through life stories reports.

Mediumship and spirit possession, in its vast phenomenology, occurs in childhood. Most of the studies are based on the hypothesis of trauma, the same spread in dissociation’s research. In general, traditional anthropological and psychiatric studies maintain only this bias. More recent studies tend to consider sociocultural influences and mental health benefits of these experiences, as they impact the experiencers. The findings open possibilities for future empirical research, such as the sociocultural roles, the origins and developments of the experiences, personality traits, mental health, and phenomenology, among others. Furthermore, regarding research with children as subjects, a non- adulthood centered methodological approach should be kept in mind, that is, when studying children, researchers need to adapt the methods, their comprehension, language, and points of view to better investigate the intended phenomena according to children’s own expressions and developmental stage.

Presented at the online PA Symposium “Advances in Mediumship Research” on February 27,2021; program chaired by Helané Wahbeh, Director of Research at IONS. Download the Abstract at

The Parapsychological Association is an international professional organization of scientists and scholars engaged in the study of psi (or ‘psychic’) experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition. The primary objective of the PA is to achieve a scientific understanding of these experiences.

A longer version of this convention video, including the Q&A period, is available to PA members-only at There is a level of PA membership for everyone interested in the scientific and scholarly advancement of parapsychology. Learn more at:

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Published on May 8, 2021