Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 871–887 | Cite as

Intrinsic Religiousness and Spirituality as Predictors of Mental Health and Positive Psychological Functioning in Latter-Day Saint Adolescents and Young Adults

  • Peter W. SandersEmail author
  • G. E. Kawika Allen
  • Lane Fischer
  • P. Scott Richards
  • David T. Morgan
  • Richard W. Potts
Original Paper


We investigated the relationships between religiousness and spirituality and various indicators of mental health and positive psychosocial functioning in three separate samples of college students. A total of 898 students at Brigham Young University participated in the three studies. The students ranged in age from 17 to 26 years old, with the average age of 20.9 across all three samples. Our results indicate that intrinsic religiousness, spiritual maturity, and self-transcendence were significantly predictive of better mental health and positive functioning, including lower levels of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsiveness, and higher levels of global self-esteem, identity integration, moral self-approval, and meaning in life. Intrinsic religiousness was not predictive of shame, perfectionism, and eating disorder symptoms. These findings are consistent with many prior studies that have found religiousness and spirituality to be positively associated with better mental health and positive psychosocial functioning in adolescents and young adults.


Intrinsic religiousness Spirituality Adolescent mental health Latter-day saint mental health 


  1. Allen, G. E. K., & Heppner, P. P. (2011). Religiosity, coping, and psychological well-being among Latter-Day Saint Polynesians in the US. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 2(1), 13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, G. E. K., & Wang, K. T. (2014). Examining religious commitment, perfectionism, scrupulosity, and well-being among LDS individuals. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 6(3), 257–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen, G. E. K., Wang, K. T., & Stokes, H. (2015). Examining legalism, scrupulosity, family perfectionism, and psychological adjustment among LDS individuals. Mental Health, Religion & Culture. doi: 10.1080/13674676.2015.1021312.Google Scholar
  4. Allport, G. W., & Ross, J. M. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, 432–443.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (1992). Authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism, quest, and prejudice. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2, 113–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  7. Barton, Y. A., Miller, L., Wickramaratne, P., Gameroff, M. J., & Weissman, M. (2013). Religious attendance and social adjustment as protective against depression: A 10-year prospective study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 146(1), 53–57.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bartz, J. D., Richards, P. S., Smith, T. B., & Fisher, L. (2010). A 17-year longitudinal study of religion and mental health. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 13(7), 683–695. doi: 10.1080/13674670801944966.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Batson, C. D., Schoenrade, P., & Ventis, W. C. (1993). Religion and the individual: A social-psychological perspective. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Batson, C. D., & Ventis, W. L. (1982). The religious experience: A social-psychological perspective. New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  11. Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  12. Benson, P. L., Roehlkerpartain, E. C., & Scales, P. C. (2012). Spirituality and positive youth development. In L. Miller (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of psychology and spirituality (pp. 468–485). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Berdnt, D. J. (1990). Inventories and scales. In B. B. Wolman (Ed.), Depressive disorders: Facts, theories an treatment methods (pp. 255–274). New York: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  14. Bergin, A. E. (1983). Religiosity and mental health: A critical reevaluation and meta-analysis. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 14, 170–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bergin, A. E., Masters, K. S., & Richards, P. S. (1987). Religiousness and mental health reconsidered: A study of an intrinsically religious sample. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 34, 197–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bergin, A. E., Stinchfield, R. D., Gaskin, T. A., Masters, K. S., & Sullivan, C. E. (1988). Religious life styles and mental health: An exploratory study. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 35, 91–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Berrett, M. E., Hardman, R. K., & Richards, P. S. (2010). The role of spirituality in eating disorder treatment and recovery. In M. Maine, D. Bunnell, & B. McGilley (Eds.), Special issues in the treatment of eating disorders: Bridging the gaps (pp. 367–385). Maryland Heights, MO: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Brewczynski, J., & MacDonald, D. A. (2006). Confirmatory factor analysis of the Allport and Ross religious orientation scale with a polish sample. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 16(1), 63–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Broday, S. F. (1988). A shortened version of the burns perfectionism scale. Psychological Reports, 62, 70.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Burns, D. D. (1980). The perfectionist’s script for self-defeat. Psychology Today, 14(6), 34–52.Google Scholar
  21. Burroughs, J. E., & Rindfleisch, A. (2002). Materialism and well-being: A conflicting values perspective. Journal of Consumer Research, 29, 348–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cochran, C. D., & Hale, W. Daniel. (1985). College student norms on the brief symptom inventory. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 41, 777–779.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Derogatis, L. R., & Melisaratos, N. (1983). The brief symptom inventory: An introductory report. Psychological Medicine, 13, 595–605.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Desrosiers, A., & Miller, L. (2007). Relational spirituality and depression in adolescent girls. Journal of Clinical Psycholology, 63, 1021–1037.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Donahue, M. J. (1985). Intrinsic and extrinsic religiousness: Review and meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 400–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Edgington, S., Richards, P. S., Erickson, M. J., Jackson, A. P., & Hardman, R. K. (2008). Perceptions of Jesus Christ’s atonement among Latter-day Saint women with eating disorders and perfectionism. Issues in Religion and Psychotherapy, 32, 25–39.Google Scholar
  27. Epstein, S. (1980). The self-concept: A review and the proposal of an integrated theory of personality. In E. Staub (Ed.), Personality: Basic aspects and current research (pp. 81–132). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  28. Epstein, S., & O’Brien, E. J. (1983). The Multidimensional Self-esteem Inventory. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  29. Fegg, M. J., Kramer, M., L'hoste, S., & Borasio, G. D. (2008). The Schedule for Meaning in Life Evaluation (SMiLE): Validation of a new instrument for meaning-in-life research. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 35(4), 356–364.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Frankl, V. (1966). Self-transcendence as a human phenomenon. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 6, 97–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fullerton, J. T., & Hunsberger, B. (1982). A unidimensional measure of Christian orthodoxy. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 21, 317–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Garfinkel, P. E., & Garner, D. M. (1982). Anorexia nervosa: A multidimensional perspective. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  33. Garner, D. M., & Garfinkel, P. E. (1979). The eating attitudes test: An index of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa. Psychological Medicine, 9, 273–279.Google Scholar
  34. Gartner, J. (1983). Self-esteem tests: Assumptions and values. In C. Ellison (Ed.), Your better self: Psychology, Christianity and self-esteem. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  35. Gartner, J., Larson, D. B., & Allen, G. D. (1991). Religious commitment and mental health: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 19, 6–25.Google Scholar
  36. Genia, V. (1993). A psychometric evaluation of the Allport–Ross I/E scales in a religiously heterogeneous sample. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 32, 284–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Glock, C. Y., & Stark, R. (1966). Christian beliefs and anti-semitism. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  38. Heise, R. G., & Steitz, J. A. (1991). Religious perfectionism versus spiritual growth. Counseling and Values, 36, 11–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hewitt, P. L., Flett, G. L., Turnbull-Donovan, W., & Mikail, S. F. (1991). The multidimensional perfectionism scale: Reliability, validity, and psychometric properties in psychiatric samples. Psychological Assessment, 3, 464–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Koenig, H. G., McCullough, M. E., & Larson, D. B. (2001). Handbook of religion and health. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Maloney, H. N. (1988). The assessment of optimal religious functioning. Review of Religious Research, 30, 3–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Maloney, H. N. (1994). Theological functioning and mental health. In V. Demarinis & O. Wickstrom (Eds.), the clinical psychology of religion, emerging cultural and multicultural questions from European and American voices (pp. 18–26). Upsela: Swedish Council of Research.Google Scholar
  43. Maslow, A. H. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York, NY: Penguin.Google Scholar
  44. Matthews, E. E., & Cook, P. F. (2009). Relationships among optimism, well-being, self-transcendence, coping, and social support in women during treatment for breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 18(7), 716–726.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. McFarland, S. G. (1989). Religious orientations and the targets of discrimination. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 28, 324–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mebane, D. L., & Ridley, C. R. (1988). The role-sending of perfectionism: Overcoming counterfeit spirituality. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 16, 332–339.Google Scholar
  47. Miller, L. (2015). The spiritual child: The new science on parenting for health and lifelong thriving. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  48. Miller, L., Davies, M., & Greenwald, S. (2000). Religiosity and substance use and abuse among adolescents in the national comorbidity survey. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 39, 1190–1197.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Miller, W. R., & Thoresen, C. E. (2003). Spirituality, religion, and health. American Psychologist, 58, 24–35.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Miller, L., Warner, V., Wickramaratne, P., & Weissman, M. (1997). Religiosity and depression: Ten-year follow-up of depressed mothers and offspring. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 1416–1425.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Payne, I. R., Bergin, A. E., Bielema, K. A., & Jenkins, P. H. (1991). Review of religion and mental health: Prevention and the enhancement of psychosocial functioning. Prevention in Human Services, 9, 11–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ramer, L., Johnson, D., Chan, L., & Barrett, M. T. (2006). The effect of HIV/AIDS disease progression on spirituality and self-transcendence in a multicultural population. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 17(3), 280–289.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Reed, P. G. (1991). Self-transcendence and mental health in oldest-old adults. Nursing Research, 40, 5–11.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Richards, P. S. (1991). Religious devoutness in college students: Relations with emotional adjustment and psychological separation from parents. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 38, 189–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Richards, P. S. (1994). Religious devoutness, impression management, and personality functioning in college students. Journal of Research in Personality, 28, 14–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Richards, P. S., & Bergin, A. E. (2005). A spiritual strategy for counseling and psychotherapy (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Richards, P. S., & Bergin, A. E. (2014). Religious diversity and psychotherapy: Conclusions, recommendations, and future directions. In P. S. Richards & A. E. Bergin (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy and religious diversity (2nd ed., pp. 475–487). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Richards, P. S., & Davison, M. L. (1992). Religious bias in moral development research: A psychometric investigation. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 31, 467–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Richards, P. S., Owen, L., & Stein, S. (1993). A religiously oriented group counseling intervention for self-defeating perfectionism: A pilot study. Counseling and Values, 37, 96–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Richards, P. S., Smith, S. A., & Davis, L. F. (1989). Healthy and unhealthy forms of religiousness manifested by psychotherapy clients: An empirical investigation. Journal of Research in Personality, 23, 506–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rokeach, M. (1960). The open and closed mind. New York: Basic Books, Inc.Google Scholar
  62. Spielberger, C. D., Gorsuch, R. L., Lushene, R. E., Vagg, P. R., & Jacobs, G. A. (1983). Manual for the state-trait anxiety inventory. Palo Alto, CA: Mind Garden.Google Scholar
  63. Steger, M. F., Fraizer, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The meaning in life questionnaire: Assessing the presence of search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 80–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Strommen, M. P. (Ed.). (1971). Research on religious development: A comprehensive handbook. New York: Hawthorn.Google Scholar
  65. Tangney, J. P., Burggraf, S. A., & Wagner, P. E. (1995). The psychology of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pride. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  66. Tangney, J. P., Wagner, P. E., & Gramzow, R. (1989). The test of self-conscious affect. Fairfax, VA: George Mason University.Google Scholar
  67. Thurstone, N. S. (1998). Psychotherapy with members of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestant Churches. In P. S. Richards & A. E. Bergin (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy and religious diversity: A guide for mental health professionals. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  68. Ulrich, W., Richards, P. S., Hansen, K. L., & Bergin, A. E. (2014). Psychotherapy with Latter-day Saints. In P. S. Richards & A. E. Bergin (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy and religious diversity (2nd ed., pp. 179–205). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Watson, P. J., Hood, R. W., Morris, R. J., & Hall, J. R. (1985). Religiosity, sin and self-esteem. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 13, 116–128.Google Scholar
  70. Wilber, K. (2000). Integral psychology: Consciousness, spirit, psychology, therapy. Boston, MA: Shambhala.Google Scholar
  71. Wulff, D. M. (1997). Psychology of religion: Classic and contemporary views (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter W. Sanders
    • 1
    Email author
  • G. E. Kawika Allen
    • 1
  • Lane Fischer
    • 1
  • P. Scott Richards
    • 1
  • David T. Morgan
    • 1
  • Richard W. Potts
    • 1
  1. 1.Brigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

Personalised recommendations