Religious Commitment, Social Support and Life Satisfaction among College Students

Article excerpt

This study examined the relationship between life satisfaction, religious commitment and social support among African American and Caucasian American college students. The students were administered the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) and Salience of Religious Commitment scale. The Social Support survey was used to assess several domains of social support including emotional/informational support, tangible support, affectionate support and positive social interaction. Results revealed a significant relationship between life satisfaction and social support for both African American and Caucasian American but no significant relationship between religious commitment and life satisfaction for either group. Hierarchical regression indicated that religious commitment and social support were significant predictors of life satisfaction, above and beyond race and gender.

Introduction

Life Satisfaction and Religion Life satisfaction has long been used in Quality of Life research (Ferraro & Albrecht, 1991) Marx and Freud described religion's effect on human life and human functioning as negative. Jung, on the other hand, described religion's effect as beneficial to both personal well being and social life. Religious measures have been found to have a small but positive relationship with life satisfaction. Pollner (1989) found that participation in a divine relationship is the strongest correlate for three of four measures of well-being, surpassing in strength such usually potent predictors as race, income, age, marital status, and church attendance. Other studies also suggest that religiosity and life satisfaction are positively related (Hadaway, 1978; Hunsberger, 1985). Peterson and Roy (1985) explored the link between religiosity variables and personal well-being. Using five indicators of religiosity: religious salience, religious comfort, 'otherworldly' orientation, church attendance, and doctrinal orthodoxy. The authors found that only religious salience was a predictor of meaning and purpose in life.

Poloma and Pendleton (1991) suggest that religiosity contributes to meaning and purpose in life or quality of life. By using a measure of well being, they found that meaning and purpose were significantly related to life satisfaction. According to Reker, Peacock, and Wong (1987) meaning and purpose in life for younger people centered on different things and therefore the correlation between life satisfaction and religion may be higher for older adults. They believed that meaning in life for younger people centers on establishing a stable identity, forming intimate relationships, and being productive and creative. It was noted that meaning in later life focuses more on developing an appreciation of why and how one has lived. Most studies have found that life satisfaction increases with age; older people are more satisfied than younger people (Broman, 1998; Campbell, 1981). Witter, Stock, Okun and Harring (1985) conducted a review of quality of life studies and found that of the 555 empirical sources on quality of life, only 28 included religion, and that 18 of those focused on older adults. Since that time, researchers have begun to study the relationship between these two variables with younger and more diverse populations. Much of the research on life satisfaction does not include religion, and an even smaller amount focuses on college age students.

Race, Ethnicity and Life Satisfaction

Studies have shown that African American youth receive more spiritual and social support than European Americans (Reis & Hetz; Maton, 1996). Thomas and Hughes (1987) found that the subjective well being of African Americans in the United States was significantly and consistently lower than it was for Whites between 1972 and 1985. However, evidence also suggests that African American mental health and self-esteem is as good as or better than Whites' (Kessler et al., 1994; Porter & Washington, 1989). …

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