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Bridges and Barriers in the Development of Faith, Identity, Vocation, and Life Purpose in College Students Katie Byron, Whitney Guthrie, Cindy Miller-Perrin,

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Presentation on theme: "Bridges and Barriers in the Development of Faith, Identity, Vocation, and Life Purpose in College Students Katie Byron, Whitney Guthrie, Cindy Miller-Perrin,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Bridges and Barriers in the Development of Faith, Identity, Vocation, and Life Purpose in College Students Katie Byron, Whitney Guthrie, Cindy Miller-Perrin, and Don Thompson Pepperdine University ACSD Annual Conference June 8, 2006

2 The Pepperdine Research Team  Katie Byron 2006 Psychology Graduate  Whitney Guthrie 2006 Psychology Graduate  Dr. Cindy Miller-Perrin Professor of Psychology  Dr. Don Thompson Associate Vice President

3 Presentation Overview  Development of faith, identity, and vocation across the undergraduate years  College seniors: Bridges and barriers to life purpose  Opportunities for influence and impact in the college environment

4 Lilly Endowment Sponsored Research at Pepperdine 2002-2006 Summary  Student Development Faith, Vocation, Identity Surveys & Interviews Autobiographical Writings Vocation Discussion Groups  Faculty Development Vocation Survey Vocation Workshops Autobiographical Writings Vocation Discussion Groups  Mission Fulfillment Life Purpose, Service, Leadership

5 Development of Faith, Identity, and Vocation Across the Undergraduate Years  College years are “critical years” in development  College years marked by change in individual self and religious self

6 Vocational Development  College students consider issues associated with personal identity, faith beliefs, and career options  Higher education should help students discover and pursue their vocational callings  Little empirical work examines the nature and development of vocational calling

7 Research Hypotheses  Vocation is “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”  Vocational development is the intersection of faith development and identity development  Faith, identity, and vocational development are not uniform across the college years

8 Method  Participants (and Response Rates) from initial sample of 300 Baseline – 113 (38%) First-Year – 191 (68%) Sophomore – 111 (64%) Junior – 132 (83%) Senior – 114 (70%)  Overall Demographics 61% female; 39% male Age range 18-22 years (X= 20.64) 70% White; 7% Latino; 5% Asian; 3% Black; 15% Other

9 Measures  Faith Attitudes and Behaviors  Vocational Discernment and Action  Barriers to Life Purpose

10 Faith Attitudes and Behaviors SubscalesSample Items Strength of Belief (alpha =.81) I view myself as a religious person. I have doubts about whether my religious beliefs are true. Faith Behavior (alpha =.88) How often do you attend religious services? How often have you read a devotional, religious, or spiritual book in the last year? Application of Faith (alpha =.90) I depend on my faith in God for decision-making and direction. I try hard to carry my religious beliefs into all other dealings in my life.

11 Vocational Discernment and Action SubscalesSample Items Discernment and Purpose (alpha =.76) I have a good sense for my life purpose. I know of the many ways that I can use my gifts and talents within the context of my professional career. I am unsure about what God is specifically calling me to do. Service to Others (alpha =.68) I am motivated to choose a career that will enable me to provide some type of service to others. I feel a deep sense of responsibility for reducing pain and suffering in the world.

12 Vocational Barriers Subscales Barriers to life purpose fulfillment Personal Barriers (alpha =.84) Fear Emotional Problems Self-doubt Lack of motivation Interpersonal Barriers (alpha =.86) A parent A friend A boy/girl friend A teacher or professor Social and Cultural Barriers (alpha =.90) Lack of financial resources Feeling pressure or a desire to get married Feeling that my opportunities are limited by the gender stereotypes of society

13 Results  Faith Development  Identity Development  Vocation Discernment and Action  Development of Life Purpose Barriers

14 Strength of Belief, Faith Behavior, and Application of Faith  Strength of Belief varied significantly over time  Faith Behavior varied significantly over time  Application of Faith did not vary significantly over time

15 I believe in God.

16 My faith/religion is NOT very important to me.

17 I continually look for ways to strengthen my faith.

18 Identity Development - Achievement  Achieved Identity status varied significantly over time

19 Identity Development – Moratorium  Moratorium Identity status varied over time, marginally

20 Identity Development - Foreclosure  Foreclosure Identity status varied significantly over time

21 Identity Development - Diffused  Diffused Identity status did not vary significantly over time

22 Vocational Discernment and Action  Vocational Discernment did not vary significantly over time  Vocational Action, as service, did not vary significantly over time

23 I have a good sense of God’s purpose for my life.

24 I am unsure about what God is specifically calling me to do.

25 I am motivated to choose a career that will provide/fulfill…

26 Barriers to Life Purpose  Total Personal Barriers scores varied over time, marginally

27 Emotional problems prevent me from fulfilling my life purpose

28 Selfishness prevents me from fulfilling my life purpose

29 Need for personal control prevents me from fulfilling my life purpose

30 Barriers to Life Purpose  Total Interpersonal Barriers scores did not vary significantly over time

31 Barriers to Life Purpose  Total Social and Cultural Barriers scores did not vary significantly over time

32 Conclusions  College students experience significant developmental variation over time Strength of faith belief Faith behavior Identity development  Foreclosure, Moratorium, Achievement Personal Barriers

33 Bridges and Barriers in the Development of Faith, Identity, and Life Purpose in College Seniors

34 Emergence of Positive Psychology  Traditionally, the field of psychology has focused on individuals’ maladaptive traits and pathologies  Positive Psychology explores individual health and well-being

35 Life Purpose  Life purpose is a popular area of research within Positive Psychology  Life purpose is linked to well-being  Life purpose is a core element in many university mission statements

36 What Contributes to Life Purpose?  Faith Religion is one context in which we encounter commitment to an ultimate concern or purpose  Identity Our ongoing life narratives allow us to understand who we are and where we belong – i.e. our life purpose

37 Faith and Life Purpose Bridges  Religious conversion Life purpose evolves following conversion: euphoria, doubt, renewed strength and stability  Core experiences Experiences of feeling close with God, including the perception that God dwells within, engender a sense of life purpose  Spiritual strivings Sacred goals that aim for meaningful life objectives, pertaining to a person’s imago dei, contribute to life purpose  Mysticism Strong emotional religious experience accompanies a strong sense of life purpose  God Control The degree to which individuals perceive God as being in control of their life can impact life direction or purpose

38 Identity and Life Purpose Bridges  Developing a sense of identity out of life stories and experiences leads to life meaning and purpose  Identity confusion – caused by lack of goals, based on lack of direction – negatively impacts life purpose  Development of life purpose helps to resolve identity crises

39 Life Purpose Barriers  To date, no studies have addressed factors that inhibit one’s understanding of life purpose  For those who experience discrimination, minority status is negatively related to personal growth  There are many other potential barriers to life purpose such as anxiety, financial circumstances, personality, etc.

40 Hypotheses – Bridges & Barriers to Life Purpose  Faith development and identity achievement positively predict life purpose  Specific barriers examined in the current study negatively predict life purpose Personality or personal emotions Views and opinions of others Social pressures or personal circumstances

41 Participants  89 undergraduates (mean age = 21.53)  60% female, 40% male  67% White, 6% Asian, 6% Latino, 10% Multiracial/Other  64% Protestant, 14% Catholic, 2% Jewish, 1% Hindu, 18% Other/None  All participants were seniors at a Christian university  Students were selected from the 2002 entering class to participate in a longitudinal survey on faith, identity, and vocation. This study included 89 of these participants who responded to two separate surveys given during their senior year

42 Measures & Scales  General Life Purpose Scale  Life Purpose Barriers Scale  Identity Scale Ego-Identity Status  Faith Scales Faith Maturity Spiritual Transcendence

43 General Life Purpose Scale  Designed to measure overall sense of life purpose  Sample items I have a good sense of purpose in life I have no sense of direction in life My life is valuable and worthwhile I am making a contribution to society

44 General Life Purpose Responses

45 Life Purpose Barriers Scale  Measures factors that can prevent individuals from fulfilling their life purpose  Yields scores on three subscales: Personality or personal emotions  Lack of motivation, fear, being uncertain of what God wants Views and opinions of others  Parents, boyfriend or girlfriend, teachers Social pressures or personal circumstances  Financial debt, feeling limited by gender stereotypes

46 Life Purpose Barriers Responses

47

48 Ego-Identity Status Survey  Classifies subjects into one of four identity groups: Achievement: exploration and commitment  “It took me a while to figure it out, but now I really know what I want for a career.” Moratorium: exploration without commitment  “Religion is confusing to me right now. I keep changing my views on what is right and wrong for me.” Foreclosure: no exploration, but commitment  “My parents decided a long time ago what I should go into for employment and I’m following through with their plans.” Diffusion: no exploration or commitment  “I haven’t really considered politics. It just doesn’t excite me much.”

49 Ego-Identity Status Responses

50 Faith Maturity Scale  Measures values and behavioral manifestations of faith  Sample items My life is filled with meaning and purpose I have a real sense that God is guiding me My faith shapes how I think and act each and every day I devote time to reading and studying the Bible

51 Faith Maturity Responses

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53

54 Spiritual Transcendence Scale  Measures ability to step outside of oneself and immediate surroundings to view life on large scale, yielding three subscales: Connectedness : assesses participants’ sense of community and relationships with others  I am concerned about those who will come after me in life Prayer Fulfillment : assesses participants’ prayer or meditation experience  I have experienced deep fulfillment and bliss through my prayers or meditations Universality : assesses participants’ sense of a greater meaning in life  I believe that death is a doorway to another plane of existence

55 Spiritual Transcendence Responses

56 Additional Results  Barrier Gender Differences  Faith Gender Differences  Predictors of Life Purpose

57 Gender Differences: Personal Barriers  Females perceive personal barriers to life purpose at higher levels than males

58 Gender Differences: Social Pressure Barriers  Females perceive social pressure barriers to life purpose at higher levels than males

59 Gender Differences: Faith Variables  Females scored significantly higher on Faith Maturity & Spiritual Transcendence

60 Best Predictors of Life Purpose Faith MaturityAchieved Identity StatusPersonal Barriers Life Purpose

61 Conclusions  College students experience significant variation in identity, faith, and life purpose development over time The sophomore year is a particularly critical milestone  Barriers to development differ significantly by gender  Females demonstrate greater faith maturity and spirituality than males  Faith maturity, achieved identity, and personal barriers are optimal predictors of life purpose

62 Lessons & Opportunities for Nurturing Student Development at Christian Universities  Engender faith growth – mentoring, spiritual nourishment, challenges  Promote self-discovery – leading to achieved identity – reflective experiences – summation as well as formation  Respect the barriers  Understand dynamics of gender  Capitalize on opportunities for impact in the sophomore year


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