Ch9 - Chapter 9 Religion Spirituality and Development in...

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J.M. Nelson, Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-87573-6_9, @ Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009 273 Chapter 9 Religion, Spirituality, and Development in Adulthood Most religious traditions contain a rich body of wisdom about how to move beyond childhood faith to a mature religious and spiritual life (Casey, 1996, p. 59; see Section 7.2). In contrast, psychological research has tended to focus more on childhood or adolescence, and the psychological studies of adult development that do exist mostly neglect spiritual and religious issues. However, an interesting body of work does exist that casts light on a number of features of spiritual development during adulthood. 9.1 Issues in Adult Development Research Psychological studies on adult development are difficult to conduct as most pos- sible research methodologies have drawbacks. The most common approach is the cross-sectional study , which compares groups of different ages on selected vari- ables and then concludes that differences between groups are due to development. However, these studies have the problem that the comparison groups of different ages or cohorts are born at different times and thus grew up under diverse circum- stances. This means that the different age groups may not be comparable with each other, a difficulty known as the cohort effect . This problem is especially important in religion research as different cohort groups such as US baby boomers appear to have aspects to their spirituality that are unique (Schaie & Hofer, 2001; Rudinger & Rietz, 2001; Roof, 1993). An alternative approach is the longitudinal study , which follows one group of people over a period of years to look for changes. However these studies are difficult to conduct and take years to produce meaningful data, so studies that combine cross-sectional and longitudinal features are often best. Devel- opmental research on religion and spirituality in adulthood has been criticized as suffering from other problems as well, such as the following: Lack of a theoretical framework A focus on the functional aspects of religion while ignoring other important aspects such as religious experience and consciousness Neglect of important variables such as gender or spirituality Superficial assessment of constructs, e.g., equating religious participation with frequency of attendance
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274 9 Religion, Spirituality, and Development in Adulthood Neglect of qualitative approaches to research that if done well may be better suited Research on religious and spiritual development in adulthood has also confronted three major theoretical questions in addition to these methodological problems. First, are adult spirituality and religiousness similar to those of childhood? Research sug- gests that there are substantial differences, which means that we must be cautious in applying childhood developmental models to the adult situation. For instance,
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Ch9 - Chapter 9 Religion Spirituality and Development in...

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