Grace in Grateful: Exploring Gratitude's Potential Influence on Faith Maturity and Stress-related Growth
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For centuries, gratitude has been lauded as a virtue and a valuable emotional state, and it is a key component in major faith traditions worldwide. However, gratitude has received relatively little notice from the psychological research community until recently. This quantitative, correlational study sought to explore gratitude’s potential association with two new variables of human functioning and flourishing, faith maturity and stress-related growth. In addition, the potential moderating influence of perceived stress on gratitude was investigated. The participants (N = 522) completed demographic questions, the International Pool of Personality Items survey (IPIP-50); the Gratitude 6 Questionnaire (GQ-6); the Perceived Stress Scale, 4-item version (PSS-4); the Faith Maturity Scale, Short Form (FMS Short Form); and the Stress-Related Growth Scale, Short Form (SRGS-SF). Results indicated gratitude correlated significantly with the five dimensions of personality (Neuroticism, Extroversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness); perceived stress; gender; faith maturity and its two subscales (FM Horizontal and FM Vertical); and stress-related growth. Gratitude did not correlate significantly with age.
After accounting for personality factors, gratitude added additional explained significant variance both to faith maturity (8%) and stress-related growth (2.4%). Women reported higher levels of gratitude and stress-related growth than men, but there were no gender differences for faith maturity. There were both significant main and interaction effects for gratitude and perceived stress on stress-related growth. Perceived stress moderated gratitude’s effects in an apparent curvilinear relationship, such that the highest levels of stress-related growth were associated with high levels of gratitude and medium levels of perceived stress; the lowest levels of stress-related growth were associated with the lowest levels of perceived stress and the lowest levels of gratitude. Gratitude and perceived stress had significant main effects but not an interaction effect on faith maturity. A proposed human relational model linking levels of gratitude, stress, and regard for self and giver may offer additional insights and applications for clinical pastoral counselors.