Theses Doctoral

Portraits of Spiritual Friendship: How Spiritual Friendship as a Learning Process Contributes to Spiritual Identity Development of Mature Adults

Ji, Yingnan

My dissertation study portrayed how mature adults who had and practice their religious or spiritual convictions learned to develop spiritual friendships and how what they then learned from these friendships contributed to their own spiritual identity development. The study investigated how spiritual friendships, as learning schemes, gravitated towards learning and change by fostering critical reflection and encouraging the participants in such friendships to strive to be their best selves. The study also showed that spiritual friendships fostered personal and professional development that was linked to spiritual development.

In particular, the study examined four spiritual friendships, involving nine participating spiritual friends (three dyads and one triad). It first uncovered how a spiritual friendship was initiated, developed, and maintained; then secondly, discussed how spiritual friendship cultivated the development of people in mature adulthood; and thirdly, explored how the learning and growth that occurred during the development procedure of the friendship contributed to the participants’ spiritual identity development. The study also defined what a spiritual friendship is as perceived and practiced by the research participants. The study employed portraiture, a qualitative research methodology, to paint a detailed representation of the participants’ lives, including their educational biographies, and to present their learning, formation, and development through practicing spiritual friendship. The study offers an in-depth and holistic portrayal of the paths the participating dyads and triads of the friendships walked as “fellow travelers” on their life voyages as these related to the formation of their spiritual selves in and through their spiritual friendships. It also sought to shed light on the triumphs of midlife and beyond: when people have gained greater experience, maturity, and capabilities, while at the same time they continued to grow and develop.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Marsick, Victoria J.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 15, 2021