Religious Orientation: The Role of College Environment and Classification

Article excerpt

This study examined the influence of college environment and classification on religious orientation. The current study compared private, religious versus public, nonreligious college students to determine if there was a difference over time and environment in religious orientation, as measured by the Religious Orientation Scale. The results indicated that there was a significant effect of environment on the intrinsic religious orientation score. No significant difference was found between classifications of students on the intrinsic religious orientation score. The interaction of classification and environment did not have a significant effect on the intrinsic religious orientation score. The results and directions for future research are discussed.

The college years are a time of transition that brings new experience and freedoms to students, which can make choosing a college a major decision. There are many variables to consider such as financial, geographic location, and availability when selecting a college to attend.

It may also be a time of religious development or a time when religion diminishes. Given that the majority of individuals living in the United States report that religion is important and considered to be valued as part of their normal decision making process (Gallup Organization, 1995; Hoge, 1996), the question as to whether to attend a private religious college or a public nonreligious college can become an important factor to be considered when deciding which college to attend. It is the purpose of this study to examine whether the college environment plays a significant role in religious orientation. Additionally this study examined whether college classification may play a role in religious orientation. Studies have shown that the more educated a person is the less likely he or she is to be religious, which suggests that one's religiousness decreases as classification increases. Therefore students entering college should be expected to have higher religious scores, but scores may decrease as they progress through college and become less favorable toward religion.

To further delineate the role of religion in an individual's life, Allport and Ross (1967) developed the idea of intrinsic and extrinsic religious orientation. Intrinsic religious orientation is defined as an internal construct that goes beyond economic or social needs. This is similar to the definition of spirituality; whereas, religion from the extrinsic perspective is more involved in the outward aspects of religion, such as attending church or performing religious rituals. Intrinsically oriented individuals have been found to be physically healthier than extrinsic religiously oriented individuals and had greater self-esteem and potential for personal growth than other students, as well as expressing a greater sense of inner freedom (Watson, Jones, & Morris, 2004). Intrinsically oriented college students reportedly adjust better in college, and they have been found to be more optimistic, self-confident, feel more positive about themselves, and feel as if they have a purpose in life (Genia, 1998). They also reported a sense of internal control, a belief that they are responsible for the things that happen to them (Strickland & Shaffer, 1971). They believe that their behavior has an influence on situations and they are better prepared to handle situations. A correlation between intrinsic orientation and psychosocial competence has been found and is mediated by collaborative and deferring religious coping styles (Hathaway & Pargament, 1990). Additionally, college students who reported being more intrinsically oriented toward religion also displayed less antisocial behavior such as drug and alcohol use, show higher levels of discipline, responsibility, and consistency, and a lower desire for money and less narcissism. (King, Elder, & Whitbeck, 1997; Watson et al., 2004; Wiebe & Fleck, 1980). Overall, the characteristics associated with an intrinsic religious orientation are associated with an increase in positive behaviors and a decrease in negative behaviors, which are considered desirable and for the most part; the opposite pattern demonstrated by individuals with extrinsic religious orientation. …