Spirituality and Religiosity in a Sample of African American Elders: A Life Story Approach

University of Notre Dame
Journal of Adult Development (Impact Factor: 0.6). 03/2002; 9(2):141-154. DOI: 10.1023/A:1015789513985

ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to examine reserve capacity in minority elderly and to identify the protective factors that promoted more optimal outcomes even in the face of a life filled with adversity. These notions were examined using life stories or personal accounts of the important events and experiences that shape an individual's development. Life story interviews were conducted with 10 African American elders (aged 58–88). Tape-recorded interviews were examined for thematic content. One of the themes that emerged as being important to participants' reserve potential comprised spirituality and religiosity. As described by the respondents, spirituality and religiosity were used as a reserve resource from which they were able to draw in times of stress, thus allowing them to grow as a result of their hardships. Overall, this research has important implications. For example, the methodology provided the opportunity to assess the process by which spirituality and religiosity contribute to well-being, either indirectly as a coping mechanism or as means of garnering social support, or more directly, via enhancing a sense of self. Descriptive accounts of this type can help to elucidate how protective factors promote more optimal outcomes and ultimately inform intervention strategies.

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