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Chun-Shin Taylor, Teresa A. Wilkins, Ph.D.

The Incremental Validity of Spirituality and Religiousness as Predictors of Cultural Well-Being among Korean Americans

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A burgeoning amount of research has accumulated related to the increasing needs of minority populations, but researchers have called for investigating the role of religion and spirituality as important variables in understanding the intricate dynamics between culture, ethnic identity, and psychological outcomes (Chae, Kelly, Brown, & Bolden, 2004; Edara, 2016).  The current study aimed to investigate the psychological constructs of spirituality and religion and their roles in predicting psychological well-being, resilience, cultural orientation, and ethnic identity among 1st and 2nd generation Korean Americans (KAs). 

Participants were 75 KA men and 66 KA women age 19 to 75 (M=32.61, SD=10.17) years. The sample was divided into two groups: 1st generation KAs (n=71), which included the 1st and 1.5 generation; and, 2nd generation KAs (n=70), which included 2nd generation KAs and mixed races. The sample consisted of Catholic (23.4%), Christian (52%), Buddhist (11%), atheist/agnoistic (11.3%), no religious affiliation but spiritual (14.9%), and others (4.9%).  Participants were given batteries of assessments: a demographic sheet, personality inventory IPIP 50 (Goldberg, 1992), Scale of Protective Factors (SPF-24: Ponce-Garcia, Madewell, & Kennison, 2015), Psychological Well-Being Scale (PWBS: Ryff, 1989), Ethnic Identity Scale (EIS: Umaña-Taylor, Yazedjian, Bamaca-Gomez,2004), and the Assessment of Spirituality and Religious Sentiment (ASPIRES, Piedmont, 2010).

The findings indicated only one group difference in spirituality on Connectedness. Concerning personality, group differences were interpretably minimal. Overall, 1st generation KAs’ spirituality and religiousness were more related to psychological well-being, cultural orientation, ethnic identity, and resilience than 2nd generation KAs. Evidence of a different but significant role of religiousness was found between the two groups.  Religious Involvement demonstrated predictive power for 1st generation KAs but not for 2nd generation KAs although there was no mean difference between the two groups on this scale.  In contrast, Connectedness played a significant role as a predictor for 2nd generation KAs but not for 1st generation KAs. The factor structure of the ASPIRES scale was recoverable, except for Connectedness for 1st generation KAs, and fully recoverable for 2nd generation KAs.  Factor loadings for the 2nd generation KAs’ loadings matched normative values better than loadings for 1st generation KAs.

As spirituality serves as a potential resource for helping individuals manage stressors in their lives (Koenig, 2012; Piedmont, 2012), counselors need to be aware of not only culture specific phenomena in the experience of spirituality, but also of differences that may exist across different generations. These inter-generational effects may reflect in KAs the unique challenges different cohorts encounter in enculturation, such as the generational gap, value conflicts, language barriers, and socioeconomic status (Suinn, 2010), and mental distress from racial discrimination in counseling sessions (Gee, Spencer, Chen, Yip, & Takeuchi, 2007).  The current study provides a first step in outlining some of these issues as they pertain to Korean Americans and their overall psychological well-being and resilience.



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Edara, I. R. (2016). Relation of individualism-collectivism and ethnic identity to spiritual transcendence among European Americans, Asian Indian Americans, and Chinese Americans. Counseling and Values, 61, 44-63. doi:10.1002/cvj.12025

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Piedmont, R. L. (2012). Overview and development of a trait-based measures of numinous construct: The Assessment of Spirituality and Religious Sentiments (ASPIRES) Scale. In L. Miller, (Ed.). The Oxford handbook of psychology and spirituality. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Ponce-Garcia, E., Madewell, A. N., & Kennison, S. (2015). The development of the Scale of Protective Factors (SPF): Resilience in a violent trauma sample. Violence and Victims Journal, 31(4), 1-29. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.VV-D-14-00163

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Suinn, R. M. (2010). Reviewing acculturation and Asian Americans: How acculturation affects health, adjustment, school achievement, and counseling. Asian American Journal of Psychology,1(1), 5-17, doi:10.1037/a0018798

Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Yazedjian, A., & Bamaca-Gomez, M. (2004). Developing the Ethnic Identity Scale using Eriksonian and social identity perspectives. An International Journal of Theory and Research, 4(1), 9-38. doi:10.1207/S1532706XID0401_2

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