Science of Spirituality (信德的科学研究)

There are different models pertinent to spiritual development and the relationship between spirituality and positive youth development. There are ecological factors, particularly family and peer influences, that influence spirituality. Professor Daniel Shek from the Department of Applied Social Sciences at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, proposed three theories of spirituality.

The first category of theories focuses on the nature of spirituality in relation to different aspects of human development. For example, there are theories suggesting that spirituality is part of quality of life.

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In the model of psychological well-being proposed by Ryff and Singer (1998), meaning, purpose, growth, and self-actualization are basic components of well-being, and psychological well-being includes self-acceptance, environmental mastery, positive relations with others, purpose in life, personal growth, and autonomy.

In the Wellness Model proposed by Adams et al. (2000), emotional centeredness, intellectual stimulation, physical resilience, psychological optimism, social connectedness, and spiritual life purpose are basic dimensions.

The second group of theories concerns the nature of spiritual development. In Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development (1968), the major task of an adolescent is to develop an identity, with ego identity versus role confusion as the basic psychosocial crisis.

In Marcia’s (1980) framework, crisis and commitment are two basic dimensions of identity, particularly in religious or spiritual identity.

In the spiritual development model proposed by Fowler (1981), there are six stages of faith development, with Stage 3 and Stage 4 most relevant to spiritual development of adolescents.

In Stage 3, faith development takes the form of “synthetic-conventional” faith which is characterized by conformity with little reflection on one’s religious beliefs. This stage is quite typical in the Chinese culture.

In Stage 4, “individuative-reflective” faith is characterized by personal struggle and choice. It is argued that the existence of personal struggle and choice are important elements of mature spirituality.

In the faith development model suggested by Genia (1990), five stages were proposed. Following the stages of Egocentric Faith (Stage 1) and Dogmatic Faith (Stage 2), the third stage is Transitional Faith where adolescents can critically examine their spirituality which is prompted by adolescents’ gradual maturation in cognitive ability and interpersonal perspective taking. If the transition in Stage 3 is successful, adolescents will progress to Stage 4 (Reconstructed Internalized Faith) and Stage 5 (Transcendent Faith) where transcendent faith is characterized by flexible system of faith, universal principles, and permeable psychospiritual boundaries.

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The third group of theories is on the relationship between spirituality and positive youth development. In the model proposed by Benson (1997), there are 40 developmental assets in adolescent development, where life meaning and positive beliefs are important internal assets that influence adolescent development.

Dowling et al. (2004) proposed a model in which spirituality was hypothesized to influence thriving with religiosity as a mediating factor. In a review of 77 positive youth development programs in the United States, Catalano et al. (2002) concluded that positive youth development constructs are intrinsic to the successful programs, with spirituality as one of the constructs identified which is defined as the development of purpose and meaning in life, hope, or beliefs in a higher power.

There are many recent publications highlighting the relationship between positive youth development and spirituality [9–11].


  1. C. D. Ryff and B. Singer, “The contours of positive human health,” Psychological Inquiry, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 1–28, 1998. View at: Google Scholar
  2. T. B. Adams, J. R. Bezner, M. E. Drabbs, R. J. Zambarano, and M. A. Steinhardt, “Conceptualization and measurement of the spiritual and psychological dimensions of wellness in a college population,” Journal of American College Health, vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 165–173, 2000. View at: Google Scholar
  3. E. H. Erikson, Identity, Youth, and Crisis, Norton, New York, NY, USA, 1968.
  4. J. E. Marcia, “Identity in adolescence,” in Handbook of Adolescent Psychology, J. Adelson, Ed., pp. 159–187, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, USA, 1980. View at: Google Scholar
  5. V. Genia, “Interreligious encounter group: a psychospiritual experience for faith development,” Counseling and Values, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 39–51, 1990. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  6. P. L. Benson, All Kids Are Our Kids: What Communities Must Do to Raise Caring and Responsible Children and Adolescents, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Calif, USA, 1997.
  7. E. M. Dowling, S. Gestsdottir, P. M. Anderson, A. von Eye, J. Almerigi, and R.M. Lerner, “Structural relations among spirituality, religiosity, and thriving in adolescence,” Applied Developmental Science, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 7–16, 2004. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  8. R.F. Catalano, M.L. Berglund, J.A.M. Ryan, H.S. Lonczak, and J.D. Hawkins, “Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs,” 2002, View at: Google Scholar
  9. E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. Wagener, and P. L. Benson, Eds., The Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence, Sage, Thousand Oaks, Calif, USA, 2006.
  10. R. M. Lerner, R. W. Roeser, and E. Phelps, Positive Youth Development and Spirituality, Templeton Press, Philadelphia, Pa, USA, 2008.
  11. A. E. A. Warren, R. M. Lerner, and E. Phelps, Thriving and Spirituality among Youth: Research Perspectives and Future Possibilities, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, USA, 2011.

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