Do College Students Who Identify with a Privileged Religion Experience Greater Spiritual Development? Exploring Individual and Institutional Dynamics
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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.
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