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Spiritual Identity: Contextual Perspectives

Abstract

Examining how spirit develops as part of identity development can deepen our understanding of how meaning, purpose, connectedness, and authentic living contribute to human thriving – and what happens when they go awry. However, research in this field has been limited by a conflation of “religion” and “spirituality” both theoretically and empirically, limited data on spirituality outside of Western contexts or Judeo-Christian religious traditions, and an emphasis on individual development with little regard to interaction with developmental systems, ecologies, or contexts. By examining the intersection of spiritual development, identity development, and ecological approaches to human development, this chapter proposes integrating more robust understandings of spiritual development into current approaches to adolescent identity formation while also deepening theoretical approaches to spiritual development by grounding them in ecological contexts, including family; peers and mentors; school; youth organizations; religious communities; and the natural world. It draws on preliminary findings from a study of 7,200 youth aged 12–25 in eight countries that suggest that this integration may be fruitful for future research.

Keywords

  • Young People
  • Identity Formation
  • Identity Development
  • Religious Community
  • Religious Institution

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Acknowledgments

The writing of this chapter, and the research behind it, was supported by the John Templeton Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Roehlkepartain, E.C., Benson, P.L., Scales, P.C. (2011). Spiritual Identity: Contextual Perspectives. In: Schwartz, S., Luyckx, K., Vignoles, V. (eds) Handbook of Identity Theory and Research. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-7988-9_22

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