Original Article

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 39-53

First online:

The Role of Spirituality Versus Religiosity in Adolescent Psychosocial Adjustment

  • Marie GoodAffiliated withDepartment of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph Email author 
  • , Teena WilloughbyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology/Child and Youth Studies, Brock University

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This study investigated the interaction between religiosity (defined as church attendance) and spirituality (defined as personal beliefs in God or a higher power) on psychosocial adjustment. Four groups were created capturing 4 different religious/spiritual orientations. Differences were assessed between the groups on a wide range of psychosocial indicators. Participants included 6578 adolescents ages 13–18 encompassing a school district in Ontario, Canada. Results were striking with regards to the consistency with which religious youth reported more positive adjustment than did non-religious youth, regardless of level of spirituality. Spirituality may not be as salient an influence on behavior as religiosity. The secondary analyses indicated that the advantage for religiosity may not be entirely unique to church attendance, but rather a function of being part of any community. However, where religiosity may be uniquely associated with adjustment (over and above benefits associated with participation in any community) is in lower levels of risk behaviors.


adolescent development religiosity spirituality psychosocial adjustment risk behaviors