Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Barry Garst

Committee Member

Edmond Bowers

Committee Member

Andrew Whitehead


Religion and spirituality are two distinct concepts that have been linked to positive outcomes (King & Boyatzis, 2015) and identity development (King & Furrow, 2004) in youth. Participation in religious and spiritual contexts has been associated with youth thriving (King et al., 2011) and transcendence (Schnitker et al., 2019). Participation in faith-based youth groups and interactions with spiritual models are primary ways that youth engage with religion and spirituality. As youth establish an identity with and fidelity to a religious or spiritual ideology, they express their commitment through spiritual activities such as prayer, scripture reading, and attend religious services (Chaves, 2017). The relationship that adolescents have with religion and spirituality is also influenced by the increasingly pluralistic and polarized American religious landscape (Chaves, 2017). An adolescent's relationship with religion and spirituality is influenced by the relational developmental systems in which they are situated (Overton, 2015). As youth move from late adolescents to young adulthood, they experience transitions that disrupt their relational systems (Breland-Noble et al., 2015). A common transition during this time is the transition from high school to college. The current studied examined how adolescents expressed religious and spiritual commitment across young adulthood. The study used an embedded mixed methods design where 387 survey responses from the 2014-2018 General Social Survey (GSS) acted as the primary data source. Qualitative thematic life stories were collected from 3 individuals and acted as a secondary source of data used to support the quantitative results. Results identified seven items that combined to form a single factor latent model that predicted religious and spiritual commitment. This factor was then used to examine the three latent class profiles of adolescents in the GSS from age 18-22. Additional analysis indicated that females, youth of color, and Protestants were more likely to be associated with the high religious/spiritual commitment latent profile compared to the medium and low commitment profiles. The thematic life stories helped provide insight into the quantitative results and revealed additional insight into idiosyncratic behaviors of adolescent religious and spiritual commitment. The qualitative data also provided insight into the impact of the transition to college on religious and spiritual commitment. The qualitative data indicated that loss of religious community, dependence on private spiritual practice, and the reevaluation of their religious and spiritual identity were common themes among the three life story participants.



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