Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

Nicole Robertson, Tiffany Anderson, Angela Liddie

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Assessment of African American Spirituality

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According to the Pew Research Center, African Americans are more religious than the US population as a whole (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 2009).  For African Americans, spirituality has been correlated with a wide range of outcomes that enhance psychological well-being (Boyd-Franklin 2003; Boyd-Franklin, 2010; Bowen-Reid, 2002; Mattis & Watson, 2008; Blakey, 2016).

The African American community is very heterogeneous in terms of its religious affiliations. Thus, one challenge with assessing spirituality is finding measures that would be useful across different religions and denominations.  A second challenge has been the relative absence of African Americans in the assessment literature; there is limited empirical research regarding the reliability of current spiritual assessments with African Americans.  The purpose of this study is to examine the psychometric utility of scores on the ASPIRES from African-Americans in comparison to scores from other ethnic groups.

Participants were obtained via Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) and the sample was divided into three groups: African Americans (N=76), Caucasian (N=759) and other (N=149). Subjects completed the Assessment of Spiritual Transcendence and Religious Sentiments (ASPIRES) (Piedmont, 2010), The Purpose in Life Test (Crumbaugh, 1968), the Delighted-Terrible Scale (Andrews and Withey, 1969), Affect Balance Scale (ABS) (Bradburn, 1969), and the IPIP 50 (Goldberg, 1992).    

African Americans were compared with Caucasians and the Other race group (those indicating Arab, Asian, Hispanic, Mixed, or other) via a one-way ANOVA.  Initial findings indicated that African Americans scored significantly higher than Caucasians and the Other race group on Prayer-Fulfilment, Universality, Religious Involvement, and Religious Crisis.  In examining Africa n American responses to the ASPIRES, results indicated the scores were reliable with alphas >= .70 with the exception of the Connectedness scale which had an alpha of .64, which is high for this scale (the normative alpha is .51).  A factor analysis of scores extracted three factors and rotated them using an orthogonal procrustean rotation that employed normative loadings as the target matrix. Congruence coefficients indicated significant fit, supporting the hypothesis that African Americans psychologically understand the items in ways consistent with normative findings.  A series of hierarchical regression analyses indicated that the ASPIRES scales evidenced significant incremental validity over personality for predicting all of the outcome variables.

Conclusions: 1) Higher mean scores on the ASPIRES in contrast to other ethnic groups underscores the salience of spirituality for African Americans. 2) That the ASPIRES scale was factorially identical to normative data demonstrated that Spiritual Transcendence is understood in similar ways across ethnic groups. 3) Evidence of incremental validity shows the ASPIRES scales to provide unique insights into how African Americans create ultimate meaning in their lives. The pattern of results was similar to findings with other ethnic and denominational groups.  4) These findings support spirituality, as measured by the ASPIRES, to be a universal dimension of the human experience which transcends racial, ethnic, or cultural differences.