Nav: Home

Youth define spirituality in terms of positive behaviors, connections

June 21, 2010

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Few studies have examined the differences between spirituality and religion in adolescents. Now, a University of Missouri researcher is exploring these differences by determining how youth define and practice spirituality separate from religion. Defining spirituality can help reveal its impact on adolescent development. Initial findings reveal that youth define spirituality in terms of positive behaviors, feelings and relationships.

"Ultimately, we want to determine the impact of spirituality on positive youth development, including self-esteem and pro-social behavior, and if it buffers against negative or risky behavior," said Anthony James, a graduate student in the MU Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). "To begin that research, we first need to identify how youth define and practice spirituality."

James examined adolescents' responses to the question, "What does it mean to be a spiritual young person?" The responses reveal that youth describe their spiritual behavior in terms of seven categories related to personal and social development, including:
  • To have purpose
  • To have the bond of connections, including those to a higher power (typically God), people and nature.
  • To have a foundation of well-being, including joy and fulfillment, energy and peace
  • To have conviction
  • To have self-confidence
  • To have an impetus for virtue; for example, having motivation to do the right thing and tell the truth
In addition, James created an "unable to define" category. The category includes responses, "Not sure," or "I don't know," from youths who self-reported being "spiritual." This reveals that there may be a disconnect between classifying oneself as spiritual and defining what that entails, James said.

"Although the assumption is that many people are 'spiritual,' spirituality is not something that is easy to articulate and define," James said. "People have a hard time separating spirituality from religion, but the differences are important to understanding behavior and development."

The study, "Preliminary findings on qualitative exploration of children and youth's conceptualizations of spirituality," was presented at the 2010 Northwestern Black Graduate Student Association Conference. Data consisted of Missouri youth's responses from wave 6 of the national 4-H Study on Positive Youth Development, headed by Richard Lerner of Tufts University. James will use the present findings to further evaluate how spirituality is related to positive and negative behaviors in youth. James works with the MU Extension 4-H Center for Youth Development and is advised by Mark Fine, HDFS professor in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.
-end-


University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Risky Behavior Articles:

Study of sisters helps explain dad's influence on risky sexual behavior
Researchers have shown links between father involvement and daughters' sexual behavior, with the standard explanation attributing that influence to shared genes that impact both a father's behavior and relationships and his child's problem behavior, including engaging in risky sex and affiliating with delinquent peers.
Great expectations force risky business acquisitions
A good reputation can be bad for business, according to new research from the University of Georgia.
Providers who prescribe PrEP don't see most patients increasing risky sexual behavior
A new study examining medical provider attitudes toward prescribing PrEP to prevent HIV found that those who already prescribe it do not see widespread increases in risky sexual behavior among their patients as a result.
Risky alcohol consumption can increase at time of retirement
Every tenth employee increases their alcohol consumption to risky levels at the time of retirement from full-time employment.
UIC to continue study of risky behavior by sexual-minority women
The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing has received a $3.25 million federal grant to continue its research to identify risk and protective factors related to drinking and drinking-related problems among sexual-minority -- lesbian or bisexual -- women.
Adolescents do not 'get the gist' when it comes to making risky decisions online
Adolescents are more likely than adults to take online risks, regardless of the gamble involved, according to new research by the University of Plymouth.
ADHD medication reduces risky behavior in children, teens, Princeton research finds
New research provides some of the first evidence that medications taken by millions of American children to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder offer long-term benefits.
Analyzing the psyche of risky drivers
Road crashes are the world's leading cause of preventable death and injury in people under 35, accounting for around 5 million casualties every year.
Research on risky sexual behaviors is lacking
Sexual health research focused on men who have sex with men is lacking, according to health researchers, even in the midst of rising rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, in this population.
Some distractions while driving are more risky than others, researchers say
Drivers more than double their crash risk for more than half of their trips when they choose to engage in distracting activities, according to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researchers writing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Related Risky Behavior Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...