Do College Students Who Identify with a Privileged Religion Experience Greater Spiritual Development? Exploring Individual and Institutional Dynamics
- 902 Downloads
College student spiritual development constitutes an important, yet understudied topic in higher education research. In particular, very little is known about whether and how this development varies among students from diverse religious backgrounds. Using a longitudinal sample of 14,527 students from 136 institutions, the current study explored the degree to which spiritual development is related to the religious affiliations of students and the type of colleges and universities they attend. Hierarchical linear modeling analyses demonstrate numerous differences between students who identify with religious majority groups (e.g., Lutherans, Methodists), religious minority groups (e.g., Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists), and no religion at all. In most instances, the presence of individual differences in spiritual development depends upon the religious affiliation of the institution. Moreover, several college experiences are positively associated with spiritual development. Implications for higher education practitioners and administrators are discussed.
KeywordsSpirituality Religion Religious affiliation Institutional type Diversity College students Student development Faith Privilege Marginalization
The authors thank UCLA’s Spirituality in Higher Education Project and its directors, Alexander W. Astin, Helen S. Astin, and Jennifer A. Lindholm, for providing the data for this study. The UCLA project, which is housed at UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.
- Allison, P. D. (2002). Missing data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25, 297–308.Google Scholar
- Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college? Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Astin, A. W., Astin, H. S., & Lindholm, J. A. (in press). Assessing students’ spiritual and religious qualities. Journal of College Student Development.Google Scholar
- Bonderud, K., & Fleischer, M. (2005). College students report high levels of spirituality and religiousness: Major study has implications for colleges, health, and politics. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, Higher Education Research Institute.Google Scholar
- Boorstein, M. (2009, March 9). 15 percent of Americans have no religion. The Washington Post, p. A04.Google Scholar
- Braskamp, L., Trautvetter, L. C., & Ward, K. (2005). How college fosters faith development in students [Electronic Version]. Spirituality in Higher Education Newsletter, 2(3), 1–6.Google Scholar
- Bryant, A. N. (2006). Exploring religious pluralism in higher education: Non-majority religious perspectives among entering first-year college students. Religion & Education, 33(1), 1–25.Google Scholar
- Chen, P. D., Dalton, J. C., & Crosby, P. C. (2006). How colleges differ in their efforts to promote moral and ethical development in college. Religion & Education, 33(2), 47–63.Google Scholar
- Cherry, C., DeBerg, B. A., & Porterfield, A. (2001). Religion on campus. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
- Clydesdale, T. (2007). Abandoned, pursued, or safely stowed? [Electronic Version]. Essay Forum on the religious engagements of American undergraduates, 1–8. Retrieved July 18, 2007 from http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/.
- Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Dalton, J. C., Eberhardt, D., Bracken, J., & Echols, K. (2006). Inward journeys: Forms and patterns of college student spirituality. Journal of College and Character, 7(8), 1–21.Google Scholar
- Flanagan, K. (1998). Eastern orthodoxy [Electronic Version]. Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Retrieved May 15, 2009 from http://hirr.hartsem.edu/ency/eastern.htm.
- Fowler, J. W. (1981). Stages of faith: The psychology of human development and the quest for meaning. San Francisco: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
- Hartley, H. V. (2004, February). The religious engagement of first-year students at Protestant colleges. Paper presented at the Institute on College Student Values, Tallahassee, FL.Google Scholar
- Heck, R. H., & Thomas, S. L. (2009). An introduction to multilevel modeling techniques (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Higher Education Research Institute. (2005). The spiritual life of college students: A national study of college students’ search for meaning and purpose. Los Angeles: University of California, Higher Education Research Institution.Google Scholar
- Johnson, T. J., Kristeller, J., & Sheets, V. L. (2004). Religiousness and spirituality in college students: Separate dimensions with unique and common correlates. Journal of College and Character, 2, 1–36.Google Scholar
- Kuh, G. D., & Gonyea, R. M. (2005). Exploring the relationships between spirituality, liberal learning, and college student engagement. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University. Retrieved September 11, 2006 from http://www.nsse.iub.edu/pdf/research_papers/teagle.pdf.
- Lowery, J. W. (2004). Understanding the legal protections and limitations upon religion and spiritual expression on campus. College Student Affairs Journal, 23, 146–157.Google Scholar
- Luke, D. A. (2004). Multilevel modeling. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Magolda, P., & Gross, K. E. (2009). It’s all about Jesus! Faith as an oppositional subculture. Sterling, VA: Stylus.Google Scholar
- Mayhew, M. J. (2004). Exploring the essence of spirituality: A phenomenological study of eight students with eight different worldviews. NASPA Journal, 41, 647–674.Google Scholar
- Nash, R. J. (2003). Inviting atheists to the table: A modest proposal for higher education. Religion and Education, 30(1), 1–23.Google Scholar
- Nash, R. J. (2007). Understanding and promoting religious pluralism on college campuses [Electronic Version]. Spirituality and Higher Education Newsletter, 3(4), 1–9.Google Scholar
- Parks, S. D. (2000). Big questions, worthy dreams: Mentoring young adults in their search for meaning, purpose and faith. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (Eds.). (2005). How college affects students, volume 2: A third decade of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Posner, B., Slater, C., & Boone, M. (2006). Spirituality and leadership among college freshmen. The International Journal of Servant-Leadership, 2(1), 165–180.Google Scholar
- Railsback, G. L. (1994). An exploratory study of the religiosity and related outcomes among college students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
- Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Roof, W. C., & McKinney, W. (1987). American mainline religion: Its changing shape and future. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Sax, L. (2002). America’s Jewish freshmen: Current characteristics and recent trends among students entering college. Los Angeles: University of California, Higher Education Research Institution.Google Scholar
- Sax, L. J., Astin, A. W., Korn, W. S., & Mahoney, K. M. (2003). The American freshman: National norms for fall 2002. Los Angeles: University of California at Los Angeles, Higher Education Research Institute.Google Scholar
- Schlosser, L. Z. (2003). Christian privilege: Breaking a sacred taboo. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 31(Jan.), 44–51.Google Scholar
- Small, J. L. (2007). “Do you buy into the whole idea of ‘God the Father’?” How college students talk about spiritual transformation. Religion & Education, 34(1), 1–27.Google Scholar
- Small, J. L. (2008). College student religious affiliation and spiritual identity: A qualitative study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.Google Scholar
- Swatos, W. H. (1998). Unitarianism [Electronic Version]. Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Retrieved May 15, 2009 from http://www.hartfordinstitute.org/ency/Unitarianism.htm.
- Watt, S. K., Fairchild, E. E., & Goodman, K. M. (Eds.). (2009). Intersections of religious privilege: Difficult dialogues and student affairs practice. San Francisco: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Zabriskie, M. (2005). College student definitions of religiosity and spirituality. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.Google Scholar