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Teresa Wilkins, Gina Magyar-Russell, Ph.D.

Spirituality or Religiousness:  Which Serves as the Better Predictor of Mental Health?

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Social scientists contend that significant advancements in religion and spirituality research may be achieved via incremental validity studies using the Five Factor Model of personality.  Drawing upon Frankl’s theory of the will to meaning, this study examined spirituality and religiousness as predictors of purpose in life and of resilience, while controlling for personality, in a convenience sample of 164 subjects (115 females [70%]  and 49 males [30%]).  Participants ranged in age from 18 to 70 years (M = 33.50 years, SD = 14.63 years).  Religious affiliations included Protestant (45.9%), Catholic (29.8%), Atheist/Agnostic (6.5%), Other Faith Tradition (5.4%), Buddhist (4.2%), Jewish (1.2%), and Muslim (1.2%); data were missing for 5.8% of participants.  The majority were Caucasian (62.5%), with African-American (19.6%), Asian (6.0%), Other (4.2%), Indian (1.8%), Middle Eastern (1.2%), and Hispanic (1.2%) subjects also represented.  Based upon the findings from existing research, it was hypothesized that spirituality would predict purpose in life better than religiousness, and religiousness would predict resilience better than spirituality.  Using Piedmont’s ASPIRES instrument (1999) to assess dimensions of religiousness and spirituality, and controlling for personality measured by McCrea and Costa’s Bipolar Adjective Rating Scale (BARS, 1985), a series of hierarchical regression analyses was performed. 

Results supported the incremental validity of the ASPIRES instrument, specifically the Prayer Fulfillment subscale.  While the personality factors of conscientiousness, extraversion, and neuroticism explained the majority of the variance (?R2= .55, p < .001) when purpose in life was regressed on the personality variables and on the religiousness/spirituality variables, the Prayer Fulfillment subscale of ASPIRES did add unique power (?R2= .06, p < .001) in the prediction of purpose in life.  Religious involvement (?R2= .04, p < .01) and the Prayer Fulfillment subscale (?R2= .03, p < .01) both predicted resiliency over and above the personality factors of neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness (?R2= .45, p < .001).  This study has advanced the field of the psychology of religion by replication of aspects of previous studies, by providing additional incremental validity for the ASPIRES instrument, and by helping to distinguish between the concepts of spirituality and religiousness.

Keywords:  ASPIRES, Five Factor Model, spirituality, transcendence, religiousness, personality, purpose in life, resilience

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