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Religion and Identity: The Role of Ideological, Social, and Spiritual Contexts

Religion and Identity: The Role of Ideological,
Social, and Spiritual Contexts
Pamela Ebstyne King
Fuller Theological Seminary
Existing research demonstrates a positive relation between religion and identity
among adolescents. A conceptual framework is presented suggesting that religion
provides a distinct setting for identity exploration and commitment through offering
ideological, social, and spiritual contexts. It is then suggested that the religious
context promotes a sense of identity that transcends the self and promotes a con-
cern for the social good and that religious institutions provide unique settings for
adolescent identity formation. In addition to the potential developmental benefits of
religion, negative consequences on identity development are considered. Finally,
recommendations for empirical study are suggested.
Currently within the social sciences there seems to
be a revival of interest in religion and spirituality. From
its inception, the field has had a conflicting relation
with these transcendent domains. G. Stanley Hall
(1904) wrote about the normality and necessary quali-
ties of religious conversion in adolescence, where two
decades later, Freud (1928/1961) referred to “religion
as a universal obsessional neurosis” (p. 43) and “a
mere illusion, derived from human wishes,” (p. 31).
Although subdisciplines such as psychology of reli-
gion and religious education have developed a substan-
tial body of work, many other areas of psychology, es-
pecially developmental psychology, have until recently
left religion and spirituality relatively unexplored
(Benson, Roehlkepartain, & Rude, this issue;
Donelson, 1999; Weaver et al., 1998). This special is-
sue, along with an emerging body of developmental re-
search and publications, suggests that on the cusp of
the 21st century, religion and spirituality are recog-
nized as viable domains of study (Benson, 1997;
Jessor, Van Den Bos, Vanderryn, Costa, & Turbin,
1995; Kerestes & Youniss, 2002; Lerner & Galambos,
1998; Markstrom, 1999; Resnick et al., 1997;
Wagener, Furrow, King, Leffert, & Benson, in press).
Given the emerging status of the field, there are
many aspects of religion and spirituality worthy of ex-
ploration. Of specific concern in this special issue is
the self. Central to the developmental task of adoles-
cence is the search for identity. Despite the volumes
written on the topic of identity, few social scientists
have explored the domains of religion and spirituality
as a resource for identity development (Fulton, 1997;
Hunsberger, Pratt, & Pancer, 2001; Marcia, 2002;
Markstrom, 1999; Youniss, McLellan, & Yates, 1999).
Scholars recognize that identity takes place and shape
embedded in a social and historical context (Damon,
1983; Erikson, 1964, 1965, 1968). Although religion
offers worldviews, social norms, relationships, and ex-
periences recognized to influence the formation and
contouring of a young person’s self-concept, the
unique role of religion and spirituality have generally
been overlooked as either a helpful or hindering source
of identity formation.
Using a current understanding of identity develop-
ment, this article explores how religion might promote
the formation of identity during adolescence. After a
review of existing theoretical and empirical work, this
article presents a framework for conceptualizing how
religion might provide a context for adolescent identity
development. Given the diverse body of literature on
identity development, broad categories are imposed for
examining influences on identity formation within the
religious context. Specifically, a three-dimensional
framework is used to examine religion as a context for
identity development by considering the ideological,
social, and spiritual contexts of religion. It is then sug-
gested that identity development that emerges out of
the ideological, social, and spiritual context embedded
within religion is an identity that transcends the self
and can promote a sense of commitment that not only
fosters individual well-being but promotes the good of
society as well. In addition to the potential develop-
mental benefits associated with religion, negative con-
sequences will also be considered. Finally, implica-
tions for empirical studies will then be discussed.
Applied Developmental Science
2003, Vol. 7, No. 3, 197–204
Copyright © 2003 by
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
I wish to thank Richard M. Lerner and two anonymous reviewers
for their insightful feedback to the article.
Reprint requests should be sent to Pamela Ebstyne King, Center
for Research on Child and Adolescent Development, Graduate
School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, 180 North Oak-
land Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101. E-mail:
Because existing research on adolescent religiousness
and identity predominantly is carried out in a
Judeo-Christian context, this article will focus on re-
sources for identity development as available through
such traditions.
As youth today struggle towards identity cohesion,
they actively search for a sense of self. They embark on
this psychological endeavor in order to consolidate and
understand their experience of self as well as identify
themselves in terms of familial, vocational, and soci-
etal roles (Damon, 1983). This quest is marked by
yearnings and behaviors that bond them to or locate
them within something beyond themselves and simul-
taneously affirm their sense of uniqueness and inde-
pendence. At its best, religion offers both.
Erikson (1964, 1965) recognized religion’s poten-
tial in identity development. He pointed to religion as
an important aspect of the sociohistorical matrix in
which identity takes shape. He argued that religion is
the oldest and most enduring institution that promotes
the emergence of fidelity, the commitment and loyalty
to an ideology that emerges upon the successful resolu-
tion of the psychosocial crisis of identity formation
(Erikson, 1968). He explained that religion not only
provides a transcendent worldview that grounds moral
beliefs and behavioral norms in an ideological base,
but religious traditions also embody these ideological
norms in a community of believers. Religious beliefs,
values, and morals enable youth to make sense of the
world and understand their place in it. Such ideologies
give meaning to events and experiences. Particularly,
in a culture where youth face an ever changing and
cluttered present, Erikson (1964) wrote that transcen-
dent meaning found in religion is imperative to adoles-
cent identity formation and well-being. Without such a
worldview to give meaning and guide behavior, the
choices and options before youth are likely to lead to
confusion and despair. Religion offers ultimate an-
swers and perspective about the larger issues in life.
Although not extensive, existing research suggests
that religion is associated with identity development.
Religiosity has been demonstrated to predict commit-
ment and purposefulness in identity (Tzuriel, 1984).
Identity achievement has been associated with high
intrinsic religiousness scores and low extrinsic reli-
giousness scores (Fulton, 1997), suggesting that iden-
tity achievement is consistent with internalizing a re-
ligious commitment. Markstrom-Adams, Hofstra, and
Dougher (1994) found that religious attendance was
associated with the identity commitment statuses of
foreclosure and achievement, whereas identity diffu-
sion was related to less frequent rates of religious at-
tendance. However, Hunsberger et al. (2001) found
only weak associations between identity achievement
and religious commitment. In turn, identity diffusion
has also been associated with lower levels of church
and temple importance, orthodoxy of Christian be-
liefs, and intrinsic religious commitment (Hunsberger
et al., 2001; Markstrom-Adams et al., 1994). Based
on psychosocial theory, Markstrom (1999) found as-
sociations between Eriksonian ego strengths of hope,
will, purpose, and love and religious involvement
(e.g., church attendance, Bible study participation,
and youth group attendance). In their study on ado-
lescents and community service, Youniss et al. (1999)
found that religion gives interpretive value to life ex-
periences and enhances identity development. In their
study of moral exemplars, Colby and Damon (1995)
found that religion acted as a unifying construct in
the lives of individuals with a salient moral identity,
through which individuals could integrate personal
goals and moral concerns. Colby and Damon noted,
“Many of our exemplars drew on religious faith for
such a unifying belief” (p. 365).
Although existing research suggests that religion is
associated with adolescent identity development, little
is understood about this relation. The conceptual
framework presented in this article argues that religion
can create a distinct environment for identity explora-
tion and commitment by providing an ideologically,
socially, and spiritually rich context.
Conceptual Framework
Religion as an Ideological Context
Ideology is essential to the identity formation
(Damon, 1983; Erikson, 1968). Young people strive to
make sense of the world and to assert their place in it.
The beliefs, worldview, and values of religious tradi-
tions provide an ideological context in which a young
person can generate a sense of meaning, order, and
place in the world that is crucial to identity formation
(Erikson, 1968; Loder, 1998). Religion intentionally
offers beliefs, moral codes, and values from which a
young person can build a personal belief system. This
worldview forms the cornerstone of a young person’s
individual sense of uniqueness and is an important as-
pect of his or her identity (Damon, 1983).
Given the advances in cognitive functioning that
occur during adolescence, young people seek out op-
portunities to generate forms of meaning and order.
With the onset of formal operational thought, adoles-
cents are capable of abstract reasoning and thinking.
Religion and spirituality provide meaningful opportu-
nities for young people to exercise their new intellec-
tual powers to reason critically and skeptically about
previously held beliefs (Loder, 1998; Markstrom,
1999). Religion can provide opportunities for youth
to use their analytical capacities to think through and
question beliefs and values, which may be especially
helpful in the consolidation of identity.
King (in press) found that religiously active youth re-
ported greater levels of a sense of shared vision or shared
worldview, beliefs, values, and goals with their parents,
friends, and adults outside their family than less reli-
giously active youth. Young people who are active in re-
ligious communities have access to a coherent
worldview providing meaning and perspective that can
serve to trigger considerations of identity issues and to
suggest resolutions for identity concerns. By providing
access to peers, family, and adults, members of a congre-
gation may offer a consistent ideological framework
that can enable a young person to make sense of the dif-
ferent ideologies competing for their attention.
Religion As a Social Context
In addition to providing an ideologically rich con-
text, religion offers a social context helpful for identity
development. Not only does religion provide a tran-
scendent worldview, but religious tradition exemplifies
these principles and behavioral norms in actual histori-
cal events and in the lives of fellow believers. As stated
previously, Erikson (1968) wrote that it is the embodi-
ment of these ideologically based principles and be-
havioral norms that enables religion to be so effective
in the development of identity. During adolescence,
personal integration is facilitated not only by abstract
ideology but by having it lived out in the flesh. Reli-
gions often provide opportunities for adolescents to in-
teract with peers and build intergenerational relation-
ships as well.
One way of understanding the potential impact of a
faith community is through what Oman and Thoresen
(in press) referred to as spiritual modeling. Spiritual
modeling refers to emulating another to grow spiritu-
ally. This occurs through observing and imitating the
life or conduct of one or more spiritual exemplars.
Spiritual exemplars are living or historic examples of
religious ideology and values that serve as role models.
Although spiritual modeling is founded on social mod-
eling and observational learning in the acquisition and
maintaining of human behaviors (Bandura, in press),
and is not theoretically linked to identity, observational
spiritual learning suggests the social significance of re-
ligion and spirituality. Research demonstrates that par-
ents recognized as spiritual role models influence out-
comes such as adolescent religiousness (King &
Mueller, in press). Gardner (1981) wrote:
Young people do not assimilate the values of their
group by learning the words and their definitions … .
They learn these in intensely personal transactions
with their immediate family and associates … . They
do not learn ethical principles; they emulate ethical (or
unethical) people. They do not analyze or list the at-
tributes they wish to develop; they identify with peo-
ple who seem to them to have these attributes. (p. 124)
Engaging in behaviors that emulate spiritual models
may enable youth to integrate abstract ideology into
their self-concept.
Religious congregations offer many opportunities
for such examples. Models can be leaders in congre-
gations, fellow worshippers, or even a late saint or
founder of the faith documented in sacred texts. Faith
communities provide rich opportunities for
intergenerational relationships to occur. King (in
press) found that religiously active adolescents report
higher levels of social interaction and trust with their
parents, immediate friends, and the most significant
adult in their life. These findings suggest that reli-
gious youth are embedded in a social context that is
characterized by interactive, trustworthy relationships
in which they share common goals, beliefs, and val-
ues. Such a web of support, where young people ex-
perience trustworthy parents, friends, and adults with
whom they can dialogue and interact, is an ideal envi-
ronment for young people to wrestle with issues of
identity. This type of milieu, in which cooperative di-
alogues and mutual exchanges between youth and
supportive adults take place, encourages personal val-
uation, identity exploration, and leads to personal in-
tegration (Fry, 1998). Trusting and sharing relation-
ships have been shown to promote self-reflection and
internalization of values, beliefs, and commitments
that constitute identity (Colby & Damon, 1995).
In addition to relationships, the religious social
context also provides social experiences from which
adolescents can assimilate identity. Experientially
based knowledge is an important aspect of personal
integration. Religious congregations often create such
opportunities. For example, interviews with a woman
recognized for commitment to serving the poor re-
vealed that her strong sense of moral identity was
shaped within her religious context (Colby & Damon,
1995). It was through her experiences of serving the
children in her congregation and working with her
pastor that a vision emerged to expand her ministry to
homeless people living around a garbage dump in
Mexico. Similarly, Marcia (2002) interpreted the im-
pact of life events, parents, and priests in the life of
Francisco Bernardone. These influences were seen as
reshaping Bernardone’s self-concept from a fashion-
able troubadour to the devote Saint Francis of Assisi.
As mentioned previously, Youniss et al. (1999) dem-
onstrated that religion often provided interpretive
value to life experiences and contributed to identity
development. They found that students who partici-
pated in community service within a religious context
adopted a religious rationale for their actions, en-
hancing identity formation.
Many congregations offer service opportunities
through local ministries to the homeless or hungry
and cross-cultural experiences where youth build
homes or lead religious camps for young people. In
addition to service, congregations can offer a variety
of leadership positions for young people. An adoles-
cent can take on leadership within the youth ministry,
act as small group leaders for peers or for younger
aged children, lead in congregational worship, and
sometimes participate in the governing body of the
congregation. These experiences give youth a sup-
portive context to experiment with their conceptions
of themselves. They can activate various aspects of
their identity such as leader, believer, or helper.
Religion As a Spiritual Context
What distinguishes congregations from most youth
organizations is the intentional pursuit of spirituality.
Religion offers a spiritual context in which a young
person can explore issues related to identity develop-
ment. The Fetzer Institute (1999) described spirituality
as that which “is concerned with transcendent, ad-
dressing ultimate questions about life’s meaning, with
the assumption that there is more to life than what we
can see or fully understand” (p. 2).
Inherent within spirituality is the experience of
transcending the self. Spirituality brings an awareness
of self in relationship to others. Engaging in the spiri-
tual provides connectedness with divine, human, or
natural other, giving a young person an opportunity to
experience himself or herself in relationship to God, a
community of believers, or nature for example. This
moving beyond the self provides the opportunity for
the search for meaning and belonging that is central
to the task of identity exploration (Benson, 1997; Hill
et al., 2000). Awareness that stems from this search
provides the ultimate answers and perspective in the
larger issues of life that are crucial to the resolution
of the adolescent identity crisis (Erikson, 1964,
1965). In this sense, spirituality can refer to a
connectedness to or awareness of both divine and hu-
man other. As Lerner (1996) emphasized, spirituality
includes the connection between self and other. He
described spirituality as “the awareness of the funda-
mental unity of all being and of our connectedness to
one another and the universe” (p. 56).
Religions can offer a profound sense of connection
that has great implications for self-concept. For exam-
ple, within Judeo-Christian traditions, believers expe-
rience themselves as being in a special relationship
with God. These traditions both teach and provide op-
portunities through ritual, where believers not only
learn about their sense of belonging to God, but experi-
ence themselves in relationship to God. Being the cov-
enant people of God has always been at the core of
Jewish identity, and staking their claim as the chosen
people of God has been central throughout history,
from the ancient Israelites to contemporary Jews
(Furman, 1987). Within the Christian tradition, believ-
ers are to understand themselves as “sons or daughters
of God” (Galatians 3:26). The New Testament also re-
fers to believers being chosen by God (Ephesians 1:4; 2
Thessalonians 2:13). Both traditions acknowledge the
uniqueness and inherent value of each person. Under-
standing oneself as a beloved or chosen one by the Cre-
ator may have profound implications for identity.
In addition, youth may find a profound sense of be-
longing as a member of a faith community. As young
people participate in congregations, they can locate
themselves as members of a historic tradition. Religion
provides both a previous community of believers who
have gone before them, as well as a present body of be-
lievers that live along side them, giving youth a sense
of being a part of something greater than themselves.
One way religion promotes a sense of
belongingness is through religious rituals (Erikson,
1965). Because the highest aim in Judaism is to fulfill
the covenant of God, Jewish spirituality is manifested
in community (Furman, 1987). For example, signifi-
cant life transitions are commemorated in the life of
the religious community. Bar or Bat Mitzvah’s serve
to recognize a boy or a girl in their transition to man-
hood or womanhood as members of a synagogue,
confirming their unique place in the body of believ-
ers. In addition, the Jewish mourning tradition of sit-
ting shiva provides the bereaved with food and social
support for days after the death of a loved one and
provides a means of living out being a people of God.
Within the Christian tradition a young person’s con-
firmation takes place within a parish or congregation.
Confirmation serves as a time to acknowledge a
young believer’s commitment to beliefs and their reli-
gious tradition as well as for the faith community to
covenant to nurture and care for the spiritual forma-
tion of the young person. These religious rites of pas-
sage are unique events that intentionally celebrate and
affirm a young person’s sense of identity as a believer
as well as recognize their place within their faith
Ongoing worship rituals also confirm one’s place
in a community. For instance, one of the foremost
religious practices within Islam is salat or prayer.
According to this tradition, believers pray at five
specific times a day. In this repetitive act, believers
experience themselves in solidarity with other Mus-
lims prostrating themselves toward Mecca. The
Lord’s Supper or Communion provides Christians
with a consistent experience of transcendence with
the “communion of saints,” which refers to all be-
lievers past and present. Within the practice of the
Lord’s Supper it is understood that by the taking of
the bread and wine that one not only experiences un-
ion with Christ, but one also participates in this act
with the communion of saints.
It is important to differentiate this spiritual sense
of transcendence from the notion of social context
that was discussed in the previous section. As de-
scribed, the social context is understood as the poten-
tial resources of social influence central to identity
formation. Whereas the spiritual context refers to op-
portunities to experience a profound sense of
connectedness with either supernatural or human
other that other invokes a sense of awareness of self
in relation to other. This heightened consciousness of
others often triggers an understanding of self that is
intertwined and somehow responsible to the other.
This attentiveness usually promotes a manner of liv-
ing that is carried out with the highest regard to the
life of self, others, and/or the divine (Miller &
Thoresen, in press). As the Fetzer Institute (1999)
wrote, “Spirituality can call us beyond self to concern
and compassion for others” (p. 2).
Spiritual Anchors
This framework suggests that religion potentially
offers an ideologically, sociologically, and spiritu-
ally rich context for identity formation. Given that
spirituality and religiosity have not been a major fo-
cus of theory or conceptualized as a basic human ca-
pacity (Benson et al., this issue; Kerestes &
Younnis, 2002), psychology presently lacks the ter-
minology and conceptual understanding to explain
the mechanisms between religion and spirituality
and identity formation. This article has attempted to
provide psychological insight into a young person’s
potential experience through religion, suggesting
that religious institutions may play a valuable role in
society—providing youth with an environment of
intergenerational support that can foster values,
meaning, identity, and sense of belonging and
connectedness beyond themselves. As such religious
congregations serve as what Garbarino (1995) re-
ferred to as spiritual anchors, “institutions of the
soul that connect children and teenagers to the
deeper meanings of life and provide solid answers to
the existential questions: Who am I? What is the
meaning of life?” (p. 150). Youth need contexts in
which to grapple with the spiritual issues of under-
standing their purpose in life, what they believe, and
their place in the world. Congregations may provide
a distinct context in which a young person can ex-
plore these issues that are critical for commitment to
Are religious congregations different from other
organizations that have shared values and purpose?
American society provides a rich tapestry of opportu-
nities for youth to explore and form an identity. Youth
today have a myriad of options for finding both a
sense of belonging as well as for affirming a unique
sense of self. Young people participate in families,
sports, entrepreneurial enterprises, employment op-
portunities, philanthropy, and different forms of civic
engagement; in addition, through technology they
have access to real and virtual environments through
which to explore identity. Personal endeavors such as
pursuing art, academics, and spirituality also offer
pathways for identity development. Does religion or
do congregations play a unique role in this social fab-
ric? If so, how do they differ from other opportunities
and experiences available to American young people?
The framework set forth in this article suggests
that religion may offer opportunities for identity ex-
ploration and commitment through providing an ideo-
logical, social, spiritual context. As such religious
congregations may be especially rich environments
for identity formation. They provide an intentional
and coherent worldview that offers prosocial values
and behavioral norms that are grounded in an ideol-
ogy. Congregations intentionally teach these values,
and members may embody these ideals and values as
well as serve as role models. In addition, the faith
community provides an intergenerational network of
enduring, caring relationships through which youth
may wrestle with issues pertinent to identity explora-
tion as well as offer experiences in which they can
explore personal gifts. Finally, congregations offer a
spiritual environment that enables youth to transcend
their daily concerns and encounter a supernatural
other and a faith community in a meaningful way.
Although other institutions and activities offer a
wide range of opportunities for youth to explore iden-
tity, they rarely offer the breadth and depth of devel-
opmental resources that foster identity as congrega-
tions do at their best. Rarely do organizations
intentionally offer ideological cohesiveness; an
intergenerational social network that nurtures and
sustains beliefs, meaning, and values; and provide op-
portunities for sacred and communal transcendence.
The combination of the three contributions enables
congregations to serve as a potentially fertile ground
for identity formation. Congregations provide an en-
vironment where youth can experience the self em-
bedded within a larger context that simultaneously
validates the inherent value of the self as well as pro-
motes a sense of belonging and connectedness be-
yond the self. The young person can gain a sense of
self as a unique individual, as well as a self that is a
contributing member to a larger whole.
Not only do congregations create a context in
which a young person can explore issues related to
identity development but, as Berger and Berger
(1983) pointed out, they serve as mediating institu-
tions that promote responsible individuals who sus-
tain democratic society. Youth who are active in con-
gregations are recognized to participate in
significantly more public service than less religious
youth (King, in press; Youniss et al., 1999; Youniss &
Yates, 1997). In addition, religion was a frequent
quality among individuals nominated for their moral
excellence and their commitment to caring and bene-
fitting others (Colby & Damon, 1995; Hart & Fegley,
1995). This finding is not surprising given the
prosocial values present within religion. In addition,
perhaps the acute awareness of connectedness with
others promotes integration of a moral and civic iden-
tity. Congregations provide an environment where
youth can experience the “self” embedded within a
larger context that enables the “caring, compassion,
and variants of ‘we’ [to] temper the rampant pursuit
of ‘me’” (Benson, 1997, p. 8). Congregations em-
body a prosocial worldview that values the sanctity of
individual and communal life. They provide exem-
plars and experiences that enable youth to internalize
a sense of self that is defined in relation to other.
Religion Gone Awry
Just as faith communities are potentially helpful re-
sources in identity formation, they are also potentially
hindering. As noted earlier, in the quest for identity de-
velopment, young people seek beyond themselves for a
sense of belongingness and connectedness to some-
thing greater than themselves as well as seeking affir-
mation of their uniqueness and inherent individual
worth. The self and other both play a significant role in
identity cohesion. The article has argued that religion
at its best, offers both. What occurs when religion is
not at its best? What if the self is sacrificed for the sake
of the other? What if the other is neglected for the sake
of the self?
Let us consider. The optimal religious context has
been argued to both affirm the value and uniqueness of
the young person as well as to offer him or her a sense
of value in connectedness to a supernatural other or
faith community. This balance is important, for if one
violates the other, identity development can be
thwarted. For example, if a religious tradition empha-
sizes the faith community, without valuing the unique-
ness of its members, youth may not have the necessary
opportunities to explore different aspects of identity.
When youth are not given the freedom to experience
moratorium, and are either forced or pressured into
adopting a specific ideology, social group, or expres-
sion of spirituality, identity foreclosure is at risk.
Markstrom-Adams et al. (1994) found that reli-
gious attendance was associated with identity com-
mitment statuses of foreclosure and achievement.
Similarly, in a study of undergraduates, Hunsberger et
al. (2001) found that religious commitment was
weakly linked with identity achievement and moder-
ately linked with identity foreclosure. These findings
suggest that religious participation can either help or
hinder the identity formation process.
Taken to the extreme, cults can be understood from
this perspective as religious expressions that devalue
the individuality of their members in order to elevate
the ideology, social group, and forms of spirituality of
the community. In addition, recent current events such
as suicide bombings illustrate devastation caused by
religious groups that value the goals and ends of the re-
ligion more than an individual life itself.
On the other hand, some traditions might not le-
verage their potential as being conducive to promot-
ing identity because they emphasize the individual,
over and above promoting a sense of community and
belonging. For example, some conservative traditions
within Christianity emphasize the individual be-
liever’s relationship with God to the extent that they
do not expend time or resources on promoting a sense
of community or contribution to larger society. When
this occurs, although youth are reinforced of their
personal worth, they lose out both on the support and
accountability of a faith community and the value of
learning what it means to belong and to contribute to
a greater good. In addition, individual forms of spiri-
tuality that are not connected with a group of follow-
ers also have the potential to leave youth without the
web of support present in religious and spiritual tradi-
tions associated with a intentional group of followers.
These manifestations of religion and spirituality are
not necessarily deleterious for identity formation or
for society, rather they lack the rich social context
that is so effective for identity formation. Forms of
religion that do not connect youth with a social group
or a spiritual experience of other may not promote a
self-concept that fully integrates a moral, civic, and
spiritual identity. However, taken to the extreme,
forms of religion and spirituality that exalt the indi-
vidual over a greater good can promote a sense of
narcissism, entitlement, and lack of connectedness
and contribution to society.
The Empirical Study of
Religion and Spirituality
Understanding the complex dynamics of religion
holds considerable promise, not only for offering in-
sight into the internal workings of religious and spiri-
tual traditions, but also for maximizing the practical
relevance of religion and spirituality for strengthen-
ing identity development. At the core of the increas-
ingly perceived relevance of spirituality for individual
development and for society is a growing scientific
recognition that religion and spirituality are worthy
domains of study. Using the current understanding of
identity development to examine the potential re-
sources embedded within religion reveals unique con-
texts and opportunities that may promote optimal de-
velopment. The conceptual framework presented in
this article provides direction for further empirical
work. As discussed previously, current research ex-
amines the relation between religion and identity us-
ing basic religious variables such as religious sa-
lience, religious attendance, religious activities, and
religious beliefs. To more fully understand the dy-
namics behind the association, a more thorough in-
quiry is necessary. The current model suggests that
ideology, social context, and spirituality available
through religion need to be explored.
If the assertions of this framework are true, then
integrating religious beliefs with one’s personal ideol-
ogy may be important in identity formation. To more
fully explore religion’s role in identity development,
the extent to which religious beliefs are integrated
into personal ideology needs to be examined. Corrob-
orating data from the adolescent, congregation mem-
bers, clergy, family, and peers would inform the ex-
tent to which a young person internalized a set of
religious beliefs, values, and morals embedded in the
religious context. Given that identity achievement is
understood to require both exploration and commit-
ment, research should examine the extent to which a
young person has explored different religious beliefs
and the extent to which they internalize them as a part
of their self-construct. Also worthy of asking is
whether the clarity and explicitness of the teaching of
ideology affects the extent to which beliefs and
worldviews are internalized. What are the associa-
tions between the content of ideology and aspects of
identity? For example, is prosocial ideology corre-
lated with a prosocial identity? What are the effects
of exploring multiple religious ideologies on one’s
identity during adolescence? Do the cognitive abili-
ties required to evaluate and assimilate beliefs, mean-
ing, and values have developmental implications for
exposing youth to multiple religious systems?
Empirical study of the religious social context will
need to bring understanding to the role of interper-
sonal and group relationships on adolescent identity
and explore the effects of social experiences available
through religion. Spiritual modeling raises many
questions including, whom do youth consider spiri-
tual or religious role models? How, if at all, do young
people intentionally learn from role models? Does the
proximity of relationship influence the impact on
identity? For example, how do parents, peers, leaders,
or historic heroes of a tradition impact identity for-
mation differently? How do trust and frequency of so-
cial interaction mediate or moderate the influence of
the relationship on a young person’s identity? How
do negative or hypocritical examples influence iden-
tity formation? What kinds of interactions are associ-
ated with identity formation? How does religion
bring meaning to different social activities carried out
in the religious context? How do individual social
skills influence the way one accesses resources for
identity development present through their religious
To gain more comprehensive insight into the rela-
tionship between religion and identity development,
the role of spirituality must be considered. Norming
existing measures that assess transcendence, such as
the Spiritual Transcendence Index (Seidlitz et al.,
2002) on adolescent populations, would enable so-
cial scientists to begin to understand the role of tran-
scendence in identity development. Exploring how
adolescents conceptualize and experience spiritual-
ity is also needed. Do adolescents experience spiri-
tuality as an awareness or connectedness to the di-
vine, to humanity, or to nature? How, if at all, do
young people intentionally seek out such experi-
ences? How do such experiences provide a sense of
meaning, perspective, and values that inform iden-
tity? How do religious rituals influence identity for-
mation? Do initiation rites predict identity achieved
or foreclosed? Under what circumstances? What
cognitive skills and affective awareness are neces-
sary for registering spiritual experiences?
Finally, it is important to explore how aspects of
ideology, social context, and spirituality interact. Are
spiritual role models more effective when ideology is
shared? Do religious groups that have more shared
spiritual experiences exert more influence on an ado-
lescent’s self-concept? How do ideological, sociologi-
cal, and spiritual contexts interact to promote positive
identity development? How can religious groups or
faith-based organizations leverage potential resources
inherent in their beliefs and traditions?
Only after these questions and others are explored
will a more thorough understanding of the role of re-
ligion in adolescent identity development emerge.
However, existing theory and research suggest that
the ideologies, relationships, and spirituality embed-
ded within religion may provide fertile ground for
identity formation. As such, religion may play a valu-
able role in society—providing youth with an envi-
ronment of intergenerational support that can foster
values, meaning, identity, and sense of belonging and
connectedness beyond themselves. As such, faith
communities can serve as a spiritual anchor for
youth, providing them with a strong sense of unique-
ness and personal worth as well as connecting them
to something beyond themselves. As one writer ob-
served, “The construction of a meaningful anchor is
the task of [a religious] community; a universe of
meaning can never be sustained in the individual’s
mind alone but in relationship with others who share
one’s longings and value” (Furman, 1987, p. 133). At
its best the religious context provides an anchor as an
ideological, social, and spiritual community that
serves to ground a young person through the some-
times turbulent waters of adolescence.
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Received October 5, 2002
Final revision received January 24, 2003
Accepted January 29, 2003
... Sedangkan dalam hal moralitas dan etika: psikologi mempelajari perkembangan moral remaja (Killen & Smetana, 2013). Sementara teologi menawarkan pandangan etika yang didasarkan pada keyakinan agama (King, 2019). Integrasi kedua bidang ini dapat membantu remaja madya memahami dan mempraktikkan nilai-nilai moral dan etika yang relevan dalam kehidupan sehari-hari. ...
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Israel vision, the New South Africa and ‘Afrikaners’: There is a growing number of Caucasian Afrikaans-speaking believers who are exposed to and accept the teachings of the British Israelite or Israel Vision movement. Some of these believers take their leave of or quit their former places of worship, while others remain and spread the Israel Vision teachings among fellow church members. This article, inter alia, asserts that Caucasian Afrikaans-speaking South Africans are ascribing to Israel Vision teachings in their search for a new identity in a post-apartheid South Africa. It utilises a comparative literature analysis from a Pentecostal perspective. To gain insight into the movement, the article considers the origin, growth and teaching of British Israelism. It furthermore attempts to understand the cultural shifting that some Caucasian Afrikaans-speaking South Africans have experienced since the importation of democracy in 1994 and what types of identity correction could be expected from such a group. When comparing the traditional Afrikaner cultural themes in terms of the Israel Vision teachings, it emerges that, according to the teachings of Israel Vision (and British Israelism), the Caucasian people are what is referred to as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel – the covenantal descendants of Abraham. God has a specific plan for these tribes. Adherents of these teachings define their identity in these exclusive terms. This article attempts to define what the Bible teaches regarding the old and new covenant as well as exclusivity and inclusivity to evaluate the Israel Vision teachings. It concludes that it results in the rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Saviour along with an unacceptable exclusivism of people of colour considering Scripture by limiting salvation to the so-called Ten Lost Tribes. This article aims to inform church leaders and Christians as regards the main teachings of the movement and its theological and existential dangers to assist believers influenced by the Israel Vision teachings. Contribution: This research aims to contribute to the field of practical theology by determining that some white South Africans have attempted to restructure their culture after the forming of a democracy in South Africa (1994) by participation in ideological groups such as the Israel Vision movement and ascribing to British Israelism. The theological and ethical grounds on which these movements rest, pose a threat to the teachings of the traditional Christian denominations in South Africa due to the racist ideology that is inherent in these groups and aim to exclude the majority of South Africans from the faith community.
Research on interventions that aim to cultivate character strengths, or virtues, has been conducted primarily among highly resourced, predominantly White communities, and the interventions have been developed to reflect the values of those communities. The purpose of this study was to use a participatory action research approach to develop a virtue intervention focused on addressing the community-identified problem of violence in a predominantly Black community, and to test its effectiveness in a pilot study. Participants were 37 youth (M age = 12.1 years old; 97% Black) who attended summer programs in two sites (on intervention, one control condition). Participants in the intervention group had greater increases in effective nonviolent behavior than participants in the comparison group according to teacher report. Overall, the results of this pilot test suggest it is possible to build a feasible, attractive, evidence-based intervention to promote character strengths using participatory action research.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the structure and measurement invariance of the religious identity, religious practice, and religious beliefs across cultures in six world regions (Asia, non-Western Europe, North America, Oceania, South America, and Western Europe) and across Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic regions (WEIRD) and non-WEIRD world regions. Confirmatory factory analysis examined whether the hypothesized measurement model fits the data; several multi-group confirmatory factor analyses were performed to examine measurement invariance through a progressive analytic strategy involving three invariance conditions of configural, metric, and scalar invariance. The results generally supported the adequate fit to the data of the three correlated factors model (religious identity-RII, religious practice-RPI, and religious beliefs—RBI); it was found to be full metric invariance for WEIRD regions (RII), North America (RII and RBI), Western Europe (RII) and Non-Western Europe (RII), and South America (RII and RBI). Finally, for RII, it was found to be full configural invariance in almost all regions, except North America and Oceania; for RPI, it was found to be full configural only in North America and Non-WEIRD regions; and for RBI, it was found to be full configural only in North America, Asia, and South America, being that women scored significantly higher than men in all three indices all over the world; finally, it was found to be configural, but not metric or scalar invariance across WEIRD and non-WEIRD world regions.
Assessment is an integral part of social work intervention with clients; however, a lack of mastery in the use of assessment can negate the goal of the intervention. Therefore, it becomes imperative that social workers and students are skilled in implementing assessment tools with a holistic view of the client. This includes a religious and spiritually responsive facet since the profession is practice-based. This study examined Biblical narratives in the teaching and learning of the planned change process, focusing on assessment. Since there are many assessment tools utilized in the social work profession, the author uses the genogram and applies it to case studies from the Bible to understand family dynamics and their influence on individuals. A model was designed for teaching assessment with genogram adaptation while focusing on the relationship between spirituality and religion in child welfare practice. Spirituality is an asset in strength-based perspective and social work practice, including the role of spirituality in the biopsychosocial assessment of clients. Finally, it is recommended that biopsychosocial-spiritual assessment is an essential concept in the classroom to initiate a robust client-centered intervention.
While religiosity can help immigrants maintain their ethnic identity, some have argued that it can hinder national identification with the host country. This study looks at the relationship of religiosity with both German and Turkish identification among Germans of Turkish descent, the largest minority group in Germany. Adopting a three-dimensional conception of religiosity, it distinguishes between individual, subjective and communal forms. The results of ordered logistic regression analyses underscore a significantly positive relationship between subjective religiosity and Turkish identification. Concerning German identity, the findings do not show, in the full model, any form of religiosity having a significant relationship with German identity. The results demonstrate that not all forms of religiosity are of equal importance for identity formation. Furthermore, the findings also call into question the importance of religiosity on the identity formation of allochthonous groups, especially when compared to other factors.
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The fasting and Eid al-Fitr celebration has a strong public dimension for their traditional characteristics in Islamic communal celebrations. This study used field research from interviews with the two largest mass organisations in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, and the statements of mass media. This research shows that contestation of religious symbols is not something that needs to be debated but it should broaden the understanding of the differences that must be respected in order to build brotherhood not, division. Contestation of religious symbols between the hisab [astronomical calculations] and the ru’yat[sighting a new crescent moon] is a competition between religious organisations, to strengthen their position, social legitimacy and religious authority in the public sphere. The government has to take the initiative to compromise the policy between the two Islamic organisations to reach a methodological agreement in order to minimise social tensions. Contribution: This article proposed that understanding the ru’yat and hisab as a symbol of contestation becomes an attribute of religious organisations and part of organisational behaviour and culture.
Identity development is an important developmental task impacted by many facets of a person’s life, including ethnic background, abilities, and religion. Notwithstanding its decisive role in identity development, however, religious identity research has been rather sparse. Religious identity refers to how the person uses religion to answers the question “who am I?” or “who are we?.” Research that focuses on the religious identity development of particular groups is more scarce. This review article intends to synthesize the current state of the research in regard to religious identity development, especially as it relates to emerging adult Catholic religious identity development. A brief consideration of theories that may aid in understanding religious identity will be undertaken, followed by a review of empirical literature that suggests possible influences on religious identity. The methods, strengths and weaknesses of current research will be considered with implications for future research. It is hoped that through a better understanding of the current research on religious identity development a clearer path forward may be paved in research development.
Incidents of religious intolerance and discrimination have become too familiar in American society, and today’s college campuses are not immune to these incidents. Previous research has shown the negative influence of perceived hostile campus cultures on students’ overall learning and development. This study investigated bachelor’s degree-seeking students’ religious and spiritual discrimination experiences. With particular attention paid to students’ self-identified religious/spiritual identities, the study found that students who identify with a non-Christian, world faith tradition more frequently experienced discriminatory acts than their Christian peers. Additionally, the results show that more respect for others’ spirituality beliefs on campus was negatively correlated with experiencing acts of religious intolerance. In contrast, increased comfort in expressing religious and spiritual beliefs on campus was positively related to more frequent incidents of religious intolerance.
B’nai mitzvah is a significant motivation for engagement in Jewish education. Professionals and families devote resources in aiding young people in becoming b’nai mitzvah. This article examines the adolescent narratives of b’nai mitzvah and the ways in which adults feature in their stories. Their accounts surface a belief that adults support them through pep talks, expressions of pride, helping them make choices, and being with them through the process. Teens see themselves responsible for their choices and achievements, but are appreciative of support. This article raises questions about what ways and by whom adolescents should be guided and supported.
• The aim of the present research is to explore the role of psychosocial protective factors in adolescent problem behavior. The authors' first concern is to determine whether protective factors are, indeed, associated with lower levels of involvement in problem behavior. The authors' second concern is to determine whether protective factors moderate the relationship between risk and problem-behavior involvement. And the final concern is to determine whether protective factors are related to change in adolescent problem behavior over subsequent time. 2,410 7–9th graders participated in the first wave of the study in 1989. 2,016 students participated in Wave-2, or 84% of the Wave-1 sample. At Wave-3 (1991), 1,974 students filled out questionnaires, and in Wave-4, 1,782 took part. Overall, 1,591 students filled out all 4 annual questionnaires; they represent 66% of the Wave-1 sample. Results indicate that psychosocial protective factors indeed appear to play an important role in the etiology and the developmental course of adolescent problem behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
James Youniss and Miranda Yates present a sophisticated analysis of community service's beneficial effects on adolescents' political and moral identity. Using a case study from a predominantly Black, urban high school in Washington, D.C., Youniss and Yates build on the insights of Erik Erikson on the social and historical nature of identity development. They show that service at a soup kitchen as part of a course on social justice gives youth the opportunity to reflect on their status in society, on how society is organized, on how government should use its power, and on moral principles related to homelessness and poverty. Developing a sense of social responsibility and a civic commitment, youth come to see themselves as active agents in society. The most authoritative work to date on the subject, this book challenges negative stereotypes of contemporary adolescents and illustrates how youth, when given the opportunity, can use their talents for social good. It will interest readers concerned with the development of today's youth and tomorrow's society.
What does it mean to be a child today? Are we doing enough to protect our children - to grant them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
The subject of this paper is a certain strength inherent in the age of youth. I call it the sense of and the capacity for Fidelity. Such a strength, to me, is not a moral trait to be acquired by individual effort. Rather, I believe it to be part of the human equipment evolved with socio-genetic evolution. This assertion I could not undertake to defend here; nor could I make plausible the fact that, in the schedule of individual growth, Fidelity could not mature earlier in life and must not, in the crises of youth, fail its time of ascendance if human adaptation is to remain intact. Nor (to complete the list of limitations) could I review the other stages of life and the specific strengths and weaknesses contributed by each to man’s precarious adaptation. We can take only a brief look at the stage of life which immediately precedes youth, the school age, and then turn to youth itself. I regret this; for even as one can understand oneself only by looking at and away from oneself, one can recognize the meaning of a stage only by studying it in the context of all the others.
Adolescence is viewed in this article both as a chronological period between puberty and early adulthood and as any time in the life cycle when an individual explores im-portant life-alternatives with the aim of making commitments. Hence, both a 15-year-old and a 30-year-old may find themselves "adolescing." Erikson viewed the chronological era of late adolescence as crucial for the individual's construction of an initial identity: Asense of who one is, based on who one has been, and who one imagines oneself being in the future. I describe individuals as being in 1 of 4 identity "statuses" according to where they are in the process of identity formation: identity achievement, moratorium, foreclosure, or identity diffusion. Identities are not con-structed in a vacuum; they are both facilitated and constrained by social and interpersonal contexts. Furthermore, identity formation is just 1 of 8 psychosocial developmental tasks, all of which involve intergenerational mutuality. That is, adults rely on children to confirm them in their growing sense of generativity, and children rely on adults to aid them in their developmental tasks of trust, autonomy, initiative, industry, and identity. The developmental crises of both parental generativity and ad-olescent/young adult identity are illustrated by reference to one of Assisi's best known families: Pietro, Pica, and Francesco (later to become St. Francis Bernardone.