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Bridges and Barriers in the Development of Faith, Identity, Vocation, and Life Purpose in College Students Katie Byron, Whitney Guthrie, Cindy Miller-Perrin, and Don Thompson Pepperdine University ACSD Annual Conference June 8, 2006. The Pepperdine Research Team. Katie Byron

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Bridges and Barriers in the Development of Faith, Identity, Vocation, and Life Purpose in College StudentsKatie Byron, Whitney Guthrie, Cindy Miller-Perrin, and Don ThompsonPepperdine UniversityACSD Annual ConferenceJune 8, 2006

the pepperdine research team
The Pepperdine Research Team
  • Katie Byron
    • 2006 Psychology Graduate
  • Whitney Guthrie
    • 2006 Psychology Graduate
  • Dr. Cindy Miller-Perrin
    • Professor of Psychology
  • Dr. Don Thompson
    • Associate Vice President
presentation overview

Presentation Overview

Development of faith, identity, and vocation across the undergraduate years

College seniors: Bridges and barriers to life purpose

Opportunities for influence and impact in the college environment

lilly endowment sponsored research at pepperdine 2002 2006 summary

Lilly Endowment Sponsored Research at Pepperdine2002-2006 Summary

Student Development

Faith, Vocation, Identity Surveys & Interviews

Autobiographical Writings

Vocation Discussion Groups

Faculty Development

Vocation Survey

Vocation Workshops

Autobiographical Writings

Vocation Discussion Groups

Mission Fulfillment

Life Purpose, Service, Leadership

development of faith identity and vocation across the undergraduate years
Development of Faith, Identity, and Vocation Across the Undergraduate Years
  • College years are “critical years” in development
  • College years marked by change in individual self and religious self
vocational development
Vocational Development
  • College students consider issues associated with personal identity, faith beliefs, and career options
  • Higher education should help students discover and pursue their vocational callings
  • Little empirical work examines the nature and development of vocational calling
research hypotheses
Research Hypotheses
  • Vocation is “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”
  • Vocational development is the intersection of faith development and identity development
  • Faith, identity, and vocational development are not uniform across the college years
  • Participants (and Response Rates) from initial sample of 300
    • Baseline – 113 (38%)
    • First-Year – 191 (68%)
    • Sophomore – 111 (64%)
    • Junior – 132 (83%)
    • Senior – 114 (70%)
  • Overall Demographics
    • 61% female; 39% male
    • Age range 18-22 years (X= 20.64)
    • 70% White; 7% Latino; 5% Asian; 3% Black; 15% Other
  • Faith Attitudes and Behaviors
  • Vocational Discernment and Action
  • Barriers to Life Purpose
  • Faith Development
  • Identity Development
  • Vocation Discernment and Action
  • Development of Life Purpose Barriers
strength of belief faith behavior and application of faith
Strength of Belief, Faith Behavior, and Application of Faith
  • Strength of Belief varied significantly over time
  • Faith Behavior varied significantly over time
  • Application of Faith did not vary significantly over time
identity development achievement
Identity Development - Achievement
  • Achieved Identity status varied significantly over time
identity development moratorium
Identity Development – Moratorium
  • Moratorium Identity status varied over time, marginally
identity development foreclosure
Identity Development - Foreclosure
  • Foreclosure Identity status varied significantly over time
identity development diffused
Identity Development - Diffused
  • Diffused Identity status did not vary significantly over time
vocational discernment and action22
Vocational Discernment and Action
  • Vocational Discernment did not vary significantly over time
  • Vocational Action, as service, did not vary significantly over time
barriers to life purpose
Barriers to Life Purpose
  • Total Personal Barriers scores varied over time, marginally
barriers to life purpose30
Barriers to Life Purpose
  • Total Interpersonal Barriers scores did not vary significantly over time
barriers to life purpose31
Barriers to Life Purpose
  • Total Social and Cultural Barriers scores did not vary significantly over time
  • College students experience significant developmental variation over time
    • Strength of faith belief
    • Faith behavior
    • Identity development
      • Foreclosure, Moratorium, Achievement
    • Personal Barriers
emergence of positive psychology
Emergence of Positive Psychology
  • Traditionally, the field of psychology has focused on individuals’ maladaptive traits and pathologies
  • Positive Psychology explores individual health and well-being
life purpose
Life Purpose
  • Life purpose is a popular area of research within Positive Psychology
  • Life purpose is linked to well-being
  • Life purpose is a core element in many university mission statements
what contributes to life purpose
What Contributes to Life Purpose?
  • Faith
    • Religion is one context in which we encounter commitment to an ultimate concern or purpose
  • Identity
    • Our ongoing life narratives allow us to understand who we are and where we belong – i.e. our life purpose
faith and life purpose bridges
Faith and Life Purpose Bridges
  • Religious conversion
    • Life purpose evolves following conversion: euphoria, doubt, renewed strength and stability
  • Core experiences
    • Experiences of feeling close with God, including the perception that God dwells within, engender a sense of life purpose
  • Spiritual strivings
    • Sacred goals that aim for meaningful life objectives, pertaining to a person’s imago dei, contribute to life purpose
  • Mysticism
    • Strong emotional religious experience accompanies a strong sense of life purpose
  • God Control
    • The degree to which individuals perceive God as being in control of their life can impact life direction or purpose
identity and life purpose bridges
Identity and Life Purpose Bridges
  • Developing a sense of identity out of life stories and experiences leads to life meaning and purpose
  • Identity confusion – caused by lack of goals, based on lack of direction – negatively impacts life purpose
  • Development of life purpose helps to resolve identity crises
life purpose barriers
Life Purpose Barriers
  • To date, no studies have addressed factors that inhibit one’s understanding of life purpose
  • For those who experience discrimination, minority status is negatively related to personal growth
  • There are many other potential barriers to life purpose such as anxiety, financial circumstances, personality, etc.
hypotheses bridges barriers to life purpose
Hypotheses – Bridges & Barriers to Life Purpose
  • Faith development and identity achievement positively predict life purpose
  • Specific barriers examined in the current study negatively predict life purpose
    • Personality or personal emotions
    • Views and opinions of others
    • Social pressures or personal circumstances
  • 89 undergraduates (mean age = 21.53)
  • 60% female, 40% male
  • 67% White, 6% Asian, 6% Latino, 10% Multiracial/Other
  • 64% Protestant, 14% Catholic, 2% Jewish, 1% Hindu, 18% Other/None
  • All participants were seniors at a Christian university
  • Students were selected from the 2002 entering class to participate in a longitudinal survey on faith, identity, and vocation. This study included 89 of these participants who responded to two separate surveys given during their senior year
measures scales
Measures & Scales
  • General Life Purpose Scale
  • Life Purpose Barriers Scale
  • Identity Scale
    • Ego-Identity Status
  • Faith Scales
    • Faith Maturity
    • Spiritual Transcendence
general life purpose scale
General Life Purpose Scale
  • Designed to measure overall sense of life purpose
  • Sample items
    • I have a good sense of purpose in life
    • I have no sense of direction in life
    • My life is valuable and worthwhile
    • I am making a contribution to society
life purpose barriers scale
Life Purpose Barriers Scale
  • Measures factors that can prevent individuals from fulfilling their life purpose
  • Yields scores on three subscales:
    • Personality or personal emotions
      • Lack of motivation, fear, being uncertain of what God wants
    • Views and opinions of others
      • Parents, boyfriend or girlfriend, teachers
    • Social pressures or personal circumstances
      • Financial debt, feeling limited by gender stereotypes
ego identity status survey
Ego-Identity Status Survey
  • Classifies subjects into one of four identity groups:
    • Achievement: exploration and commitment
      • “It took me a while to figure it out, but now I really know what I want for a career.”
    • Moratorium: exploration without commitment
      • “Religion is confusing to me right now. I keep changing my views on what is right and wrong for me.”
    • Foreclosure: no exploration, but commitment
      • “My parents decided a long time ago what I should go into for employment and I’m following through with their plans.”
    • Diffusion: no exploration or commitment
      • “I haven’t really considered politics. It just doesn’t excite me much.”
faith maturity scale
Faith Maturity Scale
  • Measures values and behavioral manifestations of faith
  • Sample items
    • My life is filled with meaning and purpose
    • I have a real sense that God is guiding me
    • My faith shapes how I think and act each and every day
    • I devote time to reading and studying the Bible
spiritual transcendence scale
Spiritual Transcendence Scale
  • Measures ability to step outside of oneself and immediate surroundings to view life on large scale, yielding three subscales:
    • Connectedness: assesses participants’ sense of community and relationships with others
      • I am concerned about those who will come after me in life
    • Prayer Fulfillment: assesses participants’ prayer or meditation experience
      • I have experienced deep fulfillment and bliss through my prayers or meditations
    • Universality: assesses participants’ sense of a greater meaning in life
      • I believe that death is a doorway to another plane of existence
additional results
Additional Results
  • Barrier Gender Differences
  • Faith Gender Differences
  • Predictors of Life Purpose
gender differences personal barriers
Gender Differences: Personal Barriers
  • Females perceive personal barriers to life purpose at higher levels than males
gender differences social pressure barriers
Gender Differences: Social Pressure Barriers
  • Females perceive social pressure barriers to life purpose at higher levels than males
gender differences faith variables
Gender Differences: Faith Variables
  • Females scored significantly higher on Faith Maturity & Spiritual Transcendence
best predictors of life purpose
Best Predictors of Life Purpose

Faith Maturity

Achieved Identity Status

Personal Barriers

Life Purpose

  • College students experience significant variation in identity, faith, and life purpose development over time
    • The sophomore year is a particularly critical milestone
  • Barriers to development differ significantly by gender
  • Females demonstrate greater faith maturity and spirituality than males
  • Faith maturity, achieved identity, and personal barriers are optimal predictors of life purpose
lessons opportunities for nurturing student development at christian universities
Lessons & Opportunities for Nurturing Student Development at Christian Universities
  • Engender faith growth – mentoring, spiritual nourishment, challenges
  • Promote self-discovery – leading to achieved identity – reflective experiences – summation as well as formation
  • Respect the barriers
  • Understand dynamics of gender
  • Capitalize on opportunities for impact in the sophomore year