Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Christian Vocation: Defining Relations with Identity Status, College Adjustment, and Spiritually

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Christian Vocation: Defining Relations with Identity Status, College Adjustment, and Spiritually

Article excerpt

A great deal of growth takes place during the college years. Christian college students may be involved in exploring their spirituality and in finding what God is calling them to do, their vocation, as well as in identity development. In this study one hundred twenty-eight women and sixty-three men (M age = 20.3 years, SD = 1.7) from a Christian liberal arts college were surveyed. In general, identity development and greater understanding of Christian vocation were related; achieved identity statuses were positively correlated with a greater understanding of Christian vocation and diffused statuses were negatively correlated with an understanding of Christian vocation. Students who better understood their vocation also showed better adjustment to college. Greater spiritual vitality and commitment and secure spiritual attachment were related to greater understanding of vocation. Preoccupied spiritual attachment was negatively correlated with understanding vocation. Limitations and suggestions for further research are discussed.

Recently, Arnett (2004) proposed a theory of emerging adulthood, suggesting that our culture has created an extended time of transition between adolescence and adulthood. Arnett (2006) defines emerging adulthood as an "age of identity explorations" (p. 8). This period of time allows young adults to explore the world around them, decipher the possibilities in life and engage in a variety of activities and events in an effort to determine who they are. For Christians in this stage of life, part of this exploration should include finding identity and calling in relation to God's will; that is, finding one's vocation (Feenstra & Brouwer, 2008).

Understanding of vocation is In the present study an understanding of vocation is defined as discovering one's identity, understanding the world, and discerning one's purpose in relation to God's will. This is different from religion orientation (Batson & Ventis, 1982) and faith development (Fowler, 1981) in that those concepts focus on ways of approaching religion or faith rather than how an individual might understand where they are in knowing God's call on their life. This definition of vocation draws on a historical understanding of the word, going beyond vocation as a career to vocation as calling. This way of thinking about vocation comes largely from that used by the reformers Luther (1523/1955) and Calvin (1546/1960), although it does not necessarily contradict Catholic theology (see Hardy, 1990, pp.67-76).

Christian colleges and universities generally strive to provide an environment which nurtures religious exploration and spiritual development. Researchers have investigated the development of Christian college students in accordance with a variety of variables such as views of self and God, forgiveness, and post-formal thought (Cook, Larson, & Boivin, 2003; Johnson, 1998; Lampton & Oliver, 2005). The concept of identity formation has received only limited attention (Foster & LaForce, 1999), particularly in relation to Christian vocation. The purpose of the present article is to investigate the connection between identity development in Christian college students and their understanding of vocation, as well as the correlation between vocational understanding, and spiritual development and college adjustment.

The definition of vocation used above focuses on bringing together individual identity formation and exploration of the world in order to understand and discern God's will. Erikson (1950, 1959, 1968) conceptualized identity as the blending of past thoughts and experiences into a coherent whole, resulting in an increase in personal growth which is used to assess future decisions and personal life events or experiences. From Erikson's ideas and research on ego identity, Marcia (1966) developed 4 empirically measurable identity statuses. The identity statuses are (1) identity achievement (commitment to a set of choices following exploration of alternatives) (2) moratorium (current exploration with commitment not yet made) (3) diffusion (lack of commitment and exploration) and (4) foreclosure (commitment based on little or no exploration of alternatives). …

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