Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Exploratory Study of Spirituality and Psychosocial Growth in College Students

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Exploratory Study of Spirituality and Psychosocial Growth in College Students

Article excerpt

This study examined spirituality, personality, and psychosocial growth among 216 students at a small university in Maryland. Results demonstrated that faith maturity predicted unique variance in purpose in life. There was a main effect observed for gender among faith scores, as well as an interaction effect between gender and year in school among faith scores. The findings suggest that a culture that fosters students' spirituality may have positive effects on aspects of well-being.

Keywords: spirituality, counseling, emerging adults, psychosocial growth


The purpose of this study was to examine relationship models of spiritual development, personality traits, and psychosocial growth in college students as emerging adults. According to Arnett (2000), emerging adulthood refers to a period of great change and formation between the ages of 18 and 25 years, in which more self-determination and less parental or societal constraints appear to motivate individual development. Arnett further stated that during this period, religious attitudes, preferences, and behaviors established in childhood and early adolescence are reexamined and individuals begin making their own choices based on values and interests that may differ from those of their parents. Therefore, it might help to understand these choices by noting the difference between spirituality and religiosity.

Spirituality and Religiosity

Piedmont (2004) suggested that a distinction needs to be made in the literature between the two concepts--spirituality and religiosity--because they share much in common. According to Miller and Thoresen (1999), "Spirituality is an attribute of an individual, similar to a personality construct, whereas religiosity encompasses more of the beliefs, practices, and rituals of an institutional nature" (p. 6). Furthermore, Miller and Thoresen stated that spirituality is more concerned with how an individual has a personal relationship to larger transcendent realities, such as the universe or God, whereas religiosity is more concerned with how an individual experiences a transcendent being and how this is expressed in a community or social organization. Throughout the present study, the term spirituality is conceptualized in the manner stated by Miller and Thoresen.

According to Morgan (2007), the notion that spirituality is a private matter and does not belong in the counseling arena has changed. Most people consider themselves to be spiritual beings; therefore, it makes sense for the counselor to include the role of spirituality in a person's life functioning, coping, and meaning finding (Morgan, 2007). College students search for self-definition and identity as they grapple with who they are and who they hope to become as adults (Arnett, 2000).

Emerging Adulthood

A portion of the developmental process in emerging adulthood involves experimentation with different or new intellectual and interpersonal behaviors that often pose risks to the psychosocial well-being of the college-age student. According to Arnett (2000), factors that contribute to individuals' successful negotiation of emerging ad Lilt hood include being content with themselves and their lives, being optimistic, and increasing their overall well-being. The transition and adjustment to college life has been an important developmental milestone that involves increased demands for autonomy and responsibility. Arnett stated that successful adaptation to the college environment requires students to develop a workable academic and social schedule, accomplish academic tasks, manage their time, negotiate a new social world, and respond to new stressors and challenges.

According to Clinebell (1992), both counseling and pastoral counseling are most effective when the counseling itself is developmentally oriented. Clinebell believed there are many opportunities for growth at each stage of life. Each stage has new problems, frustrations, pain, and losses. …

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