Theses Doctoral

Spirituality, Character and Spiritual Development in Middle School Adolescents in Israel: A Longitudinal Study of Positive Development

Kor, Ariel

Despite the robust evidence that spiritual development begins in childhood, the relationship between adolescent spirituality and positive development outcomes has been largely overlooked; thus, while the positive impact of spirituality on development has been established again and again, the empirical data on childhood and adolescent spirituality remains limited (Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Stolzenberg, Blair-Loy, & Waite, 1995). This topic, however, may be especially relevant in such turbulent times in education and development, particularly in the backdrop of the recent surging interest in character education.
Using data from 1,352 middle-school adolescents who live throughout Israel, the current study examines the following hypotheses:
1. Spirituality is a foundational facet of character, independent of interpersonal,
intrapersonal and intellectual facets of character.
2. Spirituality is stable over time during adolescent development.
3. Spirituality is correlated with positive outcomes such as positive emotions,
prosociality and life satisfaction, and with character strengths such as kindness,
gratitude, perseverance, and perspective.
4. Changes in spirituality over time are related to changes in positive outcomes and
character strengths.
Variables were measured according to several previously validated scales, completed in this study by the Israeli middle-school adolescents. Data were analyzed using a common factor model, latent class analysis and latent growth mixture modeling. The results revealed four distinct dimensions of strength/character among middle school adolescents: spiritual, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and intellectual. The emergence of a statistically autonomous spirituality factor, incorporating the various aspects of spirituality measured in the current study, suggests that spirituality is a divergent aspect of youth character, and one of the foundational aspects of character. The findings also suggest that spirituality is stable over time. The current study suggests meaningful relationships between spirituality and positive emotions, life satisfaction, prosociality, interpersonal character (e.g., prudence, judgment, selfregulation, honesty, forgiveness, teamwork, humility), and intrapersonal character (e.g., zest, life orientation, humor, hope, perspective). Spirituality did not show meaningful relationships with intellectual character strengths. Lastly, these findings suggest that spirituality is longitudinally related to positive outcomes, and that adolescents with spiritual growth report the highest levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, prosociality, and character strengths such as gratitude, kindness, honesty, perseverance, hope, and prudence, as well as the lowest levels of problems with peers. These findings suggest that spirituality is an important aspect of adolescent psychological development, both in terms of intrapersonal and interpersonal growth. Further research on this issue is warranted in order to determine whether the education of middle-school adolescents should include spirituality as a core tenet.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Clinical Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Miller, Lisa J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 3, 2017