Belonging or Becoming? The Role of Religious Participation in Emerging Adult Identity Formation and Empathy
Although theoretical arguments have been made for the positive influence of religious participation in identity formation, this relationship has received little empirical attention. This study examined a unique group of emerging adults (ages 19 to 33) who are active participants in religious communities, and the possible influence of religious participation on identity development and empathy. In a sample of emerging adults (N = 158), identity statuses indicative of low exploration (i.e., foreclosure and diffusion) were related to lower empathy toward others and higher self-oriented empathy. Participation in religious communities with greater ideological emphases was negatively associated with the identity statuses of moratorium and diffusion, whereas religious communities characterized by close relationships were positively associated with foreclosure and diffusion. Results demonstrate that characteristics of religious communities relate to emerging adult empathy levels through their relationships with low exploration identity variables. Findings suggest the potential protective factors of religious communities for emerging adults with lower levels of identity exploration. Future areas of research are discussed in light of these outcomes.
Furrow, James L.
Adulthood, Young adults, Empathy, Identity, Spiritual formation
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