Printer Friendly

Coping strategies as a mediator between adolescent spirituality/religiosity and psychosocial adjustment.

Religiosity and spirituality have been identified as developmental assets for youth, particularly in the face of adversity (Crawford, Wright, & Masten, 2006). Indeed, spirituality and religious participation are associated with better psychosocial health (Yonker, Schnabelrauch, & DeHaan, 2012), stronger relationships and more prosocial behavior (Eisenberg, Castellani, Panerai, Eggum, Cohen, Pastorelli, & Caprara, 2011; Furrow, King, & White, 2004), and fewer behavior problems (Desrosiers & Miller, 2008; Pearce, Jones, Schwab-Stone, & Ruchkin, 2003). Though there are many hypothesized mediators that explain these links, little research has examined the mechanisms by which spirituality and religiosity are related to positive outcomes. The current study seeks to examine one possible pathway--coping responses to negative peer interactions--from spirituality/religiosity to psychosocial adjustment in early adolescence.

Spirituality and religiosity are best understood as complex, multidimensional constructs with a variety of definitions (Benson, Scales, Sesma, & Roehlkepartain, 2006; Hill & Pargament, 2003). In general, spirituality has been understood as the personal and private experiences of the sacred and divine (not necessarily occurring within the context of organized religion), whereas religiosity represents beliefs, practices, and rituals around the transcendent associated with formal, organized religion. However, it has been argued that the distinctions between these constructs are not clear-cut, as religious institutions encourage personal experiences and rituals, and spiritual experiences often occur within religious contexts. Religiosity and spirituality might best be conceptualized as independent but overlapping (King & Benson, 2006). Similar to previous research with adolescents (e.g., Cotton, McGrady, & Rosenthal, 2010; Sallquist, Eisenberg, French, Purwono, & Suryanti, 2010), in the present study, we consider multiple aspects of adolescents' spirituality and religiosity (e.g., daily spiritual experiences, spiritual practices, forgiveness, spiritual values); thus, we will use the term spirituality/religiosity (S/R) throughout this paper.

Social Contexts of Early Adolescence

Adolescent S/R is a burgeoning research topic of particular significance given the developmentally-normative search for meaning and purpose and the desire for connectedness and relationships during this period (Benson et al., 2006; Furrow et al., 2004; Good & Willoughby, 2008; King & Boyatzis, 2004), drives that are fulfilled by many youth through religious and spiritual pursuits. Furthermore, because the early solidification of identity and the dawn of abstract thought, deductive reasoning, and metacognitive abilities are distinctive during adolescence, the abstract and personal construct of S/R and the development of a particular worldview and ideology are developmentally relevant to adolescents (Good & Willoughby, 2008; King & Boyatzis, 2004).

In light of these developmental tasks and phenomena, S/R is a developmental asset for adolescents. It provides sources of ideals, role models, and self-images that influence identity development (Roeser, Isaac, Abo-Zena, Brittian, & Peck, 2008). Indeed, the degree to which morality is central to one's identity in adolescence has been found to be a mechanism through which S/R affects prosocial behavior (Hardy, Walker, Rackham, & Olsen, 2012). S/R also provides connectedness with others as well as a higher being, providing security, strength, confidence, and social capital (Mason, Schmidt, & Mennis, 2012), particularly in the presence of stressors. These characteristics make adolescence a developmental period in which religious conversions or commitments are likely to occur (Good & Willoughby, 2008). S/R is important to a large percentage of adolescents and serves as a protective factor, positively influencing developmental outcomes in the face of risk (Benson et al., 2006; Furrow et al., 2004; King & Boyatzis, 2004; Roeser et al., 2008).

S/R and adjustment. Social competence, the ability to achieve and maintain success within the social context (Ladd, 2005; Rose-Krasnor & Denham, 2009), is an important aspect of development in adolescence, particularly as peer relations become more salient. A crucial change in early adolescence is the increasing complexity of peer group dynamics. Along with greater intimacy and closeness, there is an increase in the rate of peer relationship difficulties such as victimization, social exclusion, and gossiping (Parker et al., 2006). Early adolescents must acquire multifaceted social and coping skills, including conflict resolution and behavioral and emotional self-regulation abilities, to adapt to these interpersonal demands (Parker et al., 2006; Skinner & Zimmer-Gembeck, 2007). Adolescents' social competence hinges in part on their ability to utilize coping strategies to navigate peer relations and interpersonal conflicts.

There is a substantial body of literature linking S/R with psychosocial adjustment in adolescents, including both internalizing and externalizing difficulties (Carter, Flanagan, & Caballero, 2013; Kim & Esquivel, 2011; Sallquist et al., 2010; Yonker et al., 2012). There is a strong relationship between S/R and lower levels of problem behaviors such as substance use, aggression, delinquency, and smoking (e.g., DesRosiers & Miller, 2008; Pearce et al., 2003). The research exploring links between S/R and internalizing difficulties, including social anxiety and low self-esteem, has been more limited, despite the prevalence of these difficulties in adolescence (Mann et al., 2011). Therefore, in the current study, we focus on the relation between S/R and internalizing problems. Research does indicate that adolescents who report higher levels of S/R (e.g., daily spiritual experiences, forgiveness, positive religious coping) have lower levels of anxiety (Abdel-Khalek, 2011; Desrosiers & Miller, 2008; French et al., 2008), whereas adolescents and young adults who experience high levels of doubts in their religious beliefs experience more anxiety (Kezdy, Martos, Boland, & Horvath-Szabo, 2011). In contrast, adolescents with higher levels of S/R (e.g., daily spiritual experiences, religious practices and beliefs, religious attendance) have higher self-esteem (French, Eisenberg, Vaughan, Purwono, & Suryanti, 2008: Sallquist et al., 2010; Yonker et al., 2012).

Links between S/R and social anxiety have been found in adult samples (e.g., Flannelly, Galek, Ellison, & Koenig, 2010) but have not been explored in adolescent samples. However, S/R has been positively associated with adolescents' prosocial attitudes and behaviors, such as sympathy, perspective-taking, and prosocial behavior (Benson et al., 2006; Furrow et al., 2004). Due to the important role of peer relationships in adolescence, we explore the links between S/R and social anxiety in the current study.

Why is S/R linked with lower anxiety and higher self-esteem? Research with at-risk adolescents suggests that S/R reduces anxiety by promoting meaning, purpose, and sense-making, which helps them cope with stressors (Davis, Kerr, & Kurpius, 2003). When adolescents believe in a benevolent God whose purposes predominate through all events, their general social distress and fearfulness about negative evaluations and social experiences in both the present and the future is likely to be reduced. Such meaningful and positive understandings of causality may also protect against decreases in self-esteem by reducing self-blame and stress during the increased turbulence of adolescence (Yonkers et al., 2012). In addition, S/R likely promotes self-esteem by representing and encouraging positive relationships with others. Adolescents who are involved with religious communities are generally valued by adults in those congregations, which promotes a positive sense of self-worth in light of the care and concern of other people as well as God. It is likely that the positive relationships and outlooks promoted by S/R affect adolescents' outcomes through their impact on coping strategies, promoting the use of positive, adaptive strategies and reducing reliance on maladaptive techniques. For this reason, we explore coping strategies as a mechanism linking S/R with positive adjustment in adolescence.

Coping. In general, interpersonal stressors are pervasive risk factors for the development of psychopathology in adolescence (Compas, Connor-Smith, Saltzman, Thomsen, & Wadsworth, 2001; Seiffge-Krenke, 2011). The ways in which children and adolescents cope with stress can mediate risk for current and future adjustment and psychopathology (Compas et al., 2001), and it has been suggested that S/R contributes to well-being through its effects on children's coping with stress (Crawford et al., 2006; Good & Willoughby, 2008; Kim & Esquivel, 2011). Religious involvement promotes social network development and social capital that provide support during times of stress (Smith, 2003). It provides a framework for meaning-making and the promotion of a sense of agency. S/R also provides social support and resources through involvement in religious contexts, which in turn provide models of effective coping and social skills and opportunities for positive social interactions (Smith, 2003). Importantly, S/R is likely to proscribe or emphasize certain values, goals, attitudes, and behaviors that are taught, modeled, and expected; when youth face stressors, they are likely to rely on these principles and select coping responses which reflect them. Indeed, the limited research that has examined coping as a mediator between stressors and outcomes supports these ideas (Perez, Little, & Henrich, 2009).

Several types of coping have been studied in youth. Direct/active or approach coping represents positive attempts to resolve or address the stressor directly (e.g., problem-solving, conflict resolution, support seeking) and is related to positive adaptation (Kochenderfer-Ladd, 2004; Sontag & Graber, 2010). Youth who are more socially competent utilize active coping strategies more frequently than their less competent peers (Zimmer-Gembeck, Lees, & Skinner, 2011). In response to peer stressors such as bullying, seeking social support is one of the most effective ways to prevent further bullying (Seiffge-Krenke, 2011). Youth who are more likely to use active coping perceive the bullying episode as a challenge to directly address and do not assign self-blame (e.g., Hunter & Boyle, 2004), which most likely reflects their meaning-making, purpose, and self-worth. In dealing with conflict with friends, active coping is the most effective coping strategy to resolve the conflict and maintain the friendship (Seiffge-Krenke, 2011).

In contrast, some types of coping with peer difficulties (e.g., revenge-seeking, avoidance) are generally considered maladaptive and have been associated with depression, anxiety, loneliness, social problems, and school-related problems (Kochenderfer-Ladd, 2004; Kochenderfer-Ladd & Skinner, 2002; Sandstrom, 2004; Sontag & Graber, 2010; Visconti & Troop-Gordon, 2010). Avoidance, such as wishful thinking, ignoring, or refusing to think about the stressor (i.e. cognitive distancing), is considered a type of disengagement coping, as it involves an orientation away from the stressor and the negative thoughts and emotions that result from the stressor (Compas et al., 2001). In contrast, revenge-seeking is certainly active, but it is based in negative emotions, such as anger and embarrassment, that lead to thoughts about or actions of retaliation (Kochenderfer-Ladd, 2004). Revenge-seeking and cognitive distancing are proposed to be linked with negative outcomes in the face of interpersonal stressors because they do not enable adolescents to productively attend to the stressor or to build or utilize skills that might resolve the stressor in an adaptive manner. Revenge-seeking and cognitive distancing also fail to alter interpersonal dynamics to decrease the likelihood of the stressor reoccurring; rather, these coping strategies can signal weakness or vulnerability to peers and thus lead to increased peer difficulties, anxiety, and low self-esteem. We explore several of these types of coping--direct/active, revenge-seeking, and avoidance--as mediators between S/R and psychosocial adjustment.

Current Study

In the current study, we seek to better understand the processes linking early adolescents' S/R to their well-being in the developmental context of peer relationships. We hope to 1) contribute to the literature linking S/R with anxiety and self-esteem in adolescence, and 2) elucidate one pathway by which these links occur. It is important to note that no previous studies have focused on specifically interpersonal aspects of self-esteem or internalizing problems (e.g., social self-esteem, social anxiety), as the present study does. Given the importance of social development during adolescence, we focus on adolescents' coping in the face of stressors encountered within their peer relationships.

We examined the direct associations between multiple dimensions of S/R (daily spiritual experiences, spiritual practices, forgiveness, spiritual values) and internalizing difficulties (self-esteem and social anxiety) among seventh and eighth graders. Specifically, we hypothesized that each dimension of S/R would be associated with higher self-esteem and lower social anxiety. We also hypothesized that each dimension of S/R would be linked with more frequent use of active coping strategies (conflict resolution, advice and support seeking) and less frequent use of maladaptive coping strategies (cognitive distancing, revenge-seeking). Finally, we examined the role of coping strategies as a mediator in these associations. We hypothesized that coping strategies would partially mediate the relations between S/R and psychosocial outcomes. Specifically, we expected S/R to be positively associated with self-esteem and negatively associated with social anxiety through more frequent use of active coping strategies and less frequent use of maladaptive coping strategies.



Participants were 132 seventh- and eighth-grade students from a private Christian middle school in the Midwestern United States. Sixty-two (47%) were boys and 70 (53%) girls, evenly divided between seventh and eighth grade and ranging from 11.3 to 14.9 years of age (M = 13.3 years). The sample included 102 Caucasian (77%), 12 African-American (9%), seven Hispanic (5.3%), three Asian-American (2.3%), one Eastern European (0.8%), and seven biracial (5%) participants.


This study was part of a larger project examining the social experiences and coping of middle school students. In collaboration with the school administration and following appropriate IRB approval, letters and passive consent forms explaining the study and its purpose were sent to all parents. Youth provided informed assent to participate on the day of administration after the study had been fully explained. Adolescents completed self-report measures of social anxiety and self-esteem, general coping strategies, and S/R during a single class period.


Spirituality/religiosity. In order to assess multiple aspects of adolescents' S/R, we utilized the Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality (Fetzer Institute, 1999), which was developed for use in health research and assesses several specific dimensions of S/R. This multidimensional measure is one of the most widely used with adolescents and shows adequate to strong reliability (Cotton et al., 2010; Desrosiers & Miller, 2007; Sallquist et al., 2010). For the current study, we used the following subscales: Daily Spiritual Experiences, Forgiveness, Spiritual Values, and Spiritual Practices.

The Daily Spiritual Experiences subscale ([alpha] = .86) consists of eight items assessing the frequency of adolescents' sense of love, peace, and closeness to God (e.g., "I feel God's love for me," "I feel deep inner peace and harmony"). Items are rated on a 5-point scale (1 = never, 5 = always). The Forgiveness subscale ([alpha] = .72) is composed of six items assessing one's sense of being forgiven and forgiving others (e.g., "I know that God forgives me," "I have forgiven those who hurt me"). Items are rated on a 5-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). The Spiritual Values subscale ([alpha] = .70) is a two-item scale assessing the centrality of S/R to one's life (e.g., "My whole approach to life is based on my religion"). Items are rated on a 5-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree. Finally, the Spiritual Practices subscale ([alpha] = .57) measures frequency of participation in private spiritual practices (e.g., "How often do you pray in places other than at a place of worship?" "How often do you read the Bible or other religious literature?"). Items are rated on a 5-point scale (1 = not at all, 5 = all the time). For all subscales, total scores were calculated by averaging all items.

Coping. We assessed four types of coping strategies for bullying, including Conflict Resolution ("Make a plan with the kid to get along," "Take some time to cool off before responding"), Advice and Support ("Get help or advice from a friend"), Cognitive Distancing ("Make believe nothing happened," "Tell yourself it was no big deal"), and Revenge ("Think about getting even with the kid," "Ask a friend to help you get back at the kid"). Following the data reduction method utilized for this measure by Causey and Dubow (1992), twelve items with the highest factor loading (three items for each subscale) from Kochenderfer-Ladd's (2004) instrument were administered. Items were answered on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). We combined the Conflict Resolution and the Advice/Support Seeking items to reflect one Active Coping score; scale scores were calculated by averaging item scores. Scale reliability was as follows: Active Coping ([alpha] = .65), Distancing ([alpha] = .68), and Revenge ([alpha] = .78).

Self-esteem. We measured self-esteem using the Self-Esteem Questionnaire (DuBois, Felner, Brand, & Phillips, 1996). Thirteen items from the Peer and Global subscales (e.g., "I am as good as I want to be at making new friends," "I am the kind of person I want to be") were used in the current study and were rated on a 4-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 4 = strongly agree. These subscales have demonstrated adequate internal consistency (DuBois et al., 1996). We calculated a mean score for each participant, with higher scores reflecting higher levels of self-esteem ([alpha] = .86).

Social anxiety. Adolescents completed the Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents (SAS-A; La Greca & Lopez, 1998), a self-report measure of social anxiety which has demonstrated good reliability and validity (La Greca & Lopez, 1998; Storch et al., 2005). Nine of the 12 items from the Fear of Negative Evaluation and Social Avoidance and Distress-General subscales were used in the current study (e.g., "I worry about what others think of me," "I feel shy even with peers I know very well"). Three items that could be considered peer victimization were removed to avoid construct overlap, as has been done in previous studies (e.g., Nishina, Juvonen, & Witkow, 2005). Items were rated on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = not at all, 5 = all the time and summed for a total Social Anxiety score ([alpha] = .91).


Analyses were conducted in three steps. First, we examined one-tailed correlations among variables. Second, we used linear regression to examine the direct effects of 1) dimensions of S/R and 2) coping over and above S/R on social anxiety and self-esteem. Third, we tested mediation using the bootstrapping approach, which is the preferred method of analysis because of its increased power and reduced likelihood of error over the traditional Sobel test (Preacher & Hayes, 2004; Zhao, Lynch, & Chen, 2010).

Relations among Variables

As anticipated, the study variables were highly related (see Table 1). All four S/R variables were positively correlated with one another and with active coping; daily spiritual experiences and forgiveness were negatively correlated with revenge coping. Social anxiety and self-esteem were negatively correlated with one another and also associated with the S/R and coping variables in hypothesized directions. Adolescents with higher levels of daily spiritual experiences, forgiveness, and spiritual practices had lower levels of social anxiety and higher levels of self-esteem. Spiritual values were also positively correlated with self-esteem. Finally, adolescents who utilized revenge coping had lower self-esteem and higher social anxiety. Conflict resolution/advice seeking (active coping) and cognitive distancing as coping strategies were not linked to outcomes.

Direct Effects

Two hierarchical linear regressions were conducted (see Table 2). In the first, we regressed the S/R and coping variables on self-esteem; in the second, we regressed the same variables on social anxiety. The S/R variables as a group predicted adolescents' self-esteem (F = 6.93, p < .01). Specifically, adolescents who reported more frequent daily spiritual experiences had marginally higher self-esteem ([beta] = .21, p = .067), and higher levels of forgiveness predicted higher levels of self-esteem ([beta] = 2.69, p < 01). The coping methods as a group did not predict self-esteem over and above spirituality/religiosity; however, revenge coping was marginally predictive of lower levels of self-esteem ([beta] = -.16, p = .088). In contrast, no variables significantly predicted social anxiety.

Indirect Effects (Mediation)

We tested mediation using the bootstrapping approach. Revenge coping mediated the links between daily spiritual experiences and self-esteem (point estimate = .03, CI [.00, .09]), forgiveness and self-esteem (point estimate = .04, CI [.00, .11]), and spiritual practices and self-esteem (point estimate = .03, CI [.00, .08]). Revenge coping also mediated the link between spiritual practices and social anxiety (point estimate = .02, CI [-.13, -.00]).


Longitudinal research suggests that there are likely to be "third variables" that help explain the associations between S/R and psychosocial adjustment (Sallquist et al., 2010). The goal of the current study was to examine one set of potential mediating variables in the context of early adolescents' peer relationships during a developmental period in which social relationships are increasing in importance.

As predicted, we found significant relations among S/R, coping with negative peer interactions, and self-esteem and social anxiety. In terms of direct effects, higher levels of S/R predicted higher self-esteem, with daily spiritual experiences and forgiveness playing the main roles in this relation. This association was explained in part by the use of revenge coping, which predicted lower levels of self-esteem and mediated the link between S/R and self-esteem. That is, adolescents who reported less frequent experiences of peace and closeness to God, a weaker sense of being forgiven and being able to forgive, and less frequent engagement in personal spiritual practices were more likely to engage in revenge as a coping strategy and, in turn, to have lower self-esteem. Although the prediction of self-esteem was more consistent than prediction of social anxiety, revenge coping also mediated the impact of spiritual practices on social anxiety. Adolescents who engaged less frequently in practices such as private prayer and Scripture reading were more likely to seek revenge when hurt by a peer, which in turn predicted higher levels of social anxiety.

Revenge coping appears to be the specific mediator in our sample through which adolescent S/R is linked with self-esteem and social anxiety. Though S/R promotes adaptive, active coping in adolescents, its impact on the reduction of maladaptive coping strategies, such as revenge seeking and retaliation, appears to be a particularly important mechanism through which S/R impacts psychosocial outcomes in the context of peer relationships. A sense of being forgiven by God and thus being willing to forgive others may help youth cope with the negative emotions that can result from interpersonal offenses and avoid engaging in revenge when they are wronged by a friend or a peer (Egan & Todorov, 2009; Flanagan, Loveall, & Carter, 2012). Moral teachings and verbal and nonverbal messages about kindness, empathy, compassion, peace, and love within religious, family, and peer contexts generally discourage revenge-seeking by placing a high value on such principles as forgiveness, empathy, and grace. Further, youth may obtain support within their S/R context that helps them cope adaptively with their negative emotions, focusing instead on prosocial concerns and making positive meaning of social difficulties (e.g., an adolescent may be able to see pain caused by a peer as an opportunity to learn to become a better friend to others). In turn, their anxiety and the impact of these conflicts on self-esteem are reduced. In contrast, adolescents who do not garner purpose, meaning, or social support from S/R may find revenge-seeking to be a satisfying or valuable manner of reacting to peer conflict, despite its clear negative impact on functioning. These findings are consistent with literature regarding positive youth development that links adolescent S/R with prosocial concerns and behaviors (Benson et al., 2006; Markstrom, Huey, Stiles, & Krause, 2010).

The current findings have important implications for understanding and promoting positive development in youth. It is clear that peer relationships--including the challenges they present--are an important context in which adolescent S/R play out and affect outcomes. Interactions with peers provide youth with opportunities to apply their identity, values, and beliefs in practical ways, and personal S/R engagement affects how adolescents react to interpersonal conflict. Adults who work and interact with youth can use peer conflicts as an opportunity to support adolescents in the application of their S/R values and principles as they navigate the interpersonal difficulties that are inevitable in middle and high school. Those who work specifically in a religious context can be open to listening to the difficulties youth experience in coping with actual interpersonal offenses. They can focus on scripture that emphasizes the triumph of good over evil and the value of forgiveness over revenge (Matthew 5:38-45, 6:12-14; Luke 6:27-36; Romans 12:9-21). Directly addressing these issues within a critical developmental context may strengthen youths' S/R and enable them to purposefully apply their beliefs and values in their social contexts, acknowledging their agency within the process of spiritual development (Benson et al., 2003).

We did not have enough power in our small sample to examine sex differences, although sex differences in the constructs of interest (e.g., coping, social anxiety, self-esteem) are commonly found. For example, girls tend to report higher levels of S/R in adolescence and tend to rate religion as more important to them (Benson et al., 2006; Desrosiers & Miller, 2007). Further, associations between particular dimensions of S/R and adjustment (e.g., depression, prosocial concerns) differ between girls and boys (Desrosiers & Miller, 2007; Furrow et al, 2004; Perez et al., 2009). Given such findings, gender differences in the relations among S/R, coping, and socioemotional outcomes is an important direction for future study.

An area of strength of the current study is the inclusion of multiple dimensions of S/R, beyond what is often used in research. The multidimensional nature of S/R requires assessment of more than a single item (e.g., church attendance, frequency of prayer) or dimension (e.g., perceived closeness to God, religious beliefs). Yet, because the current study focused on specific interpersonal strategies pertinent to coping with peer difficulties, we only assessed one type of potential mediator (coping) between S/R and adjustment. We did not assess S/R coping, which may represent a unique aspect to adolescents' coping that could add to the prediction of psychosocial adjustment in the face of peer stressors (Carpenter, Laney, & Mezulis, 2012; Eisenberg et al., 2011). In addition, it is important to remember that coping is only one of many mechanisms through which S/R can affect adolescents' outcomes, even within the specific context of peer relationships. The S/R dimensions assessed did not include such developmentally important constructs as parental S/R, religious youth groups, and other sources of supports within the religious context (Cotton et al., 2010). Ideally, future studies would incorporate multiple potential mediators from a variety of domains (peer, school, family, intrapersonal) in order to improve our understanding of the dynamic impact of S/R on youth development.

Finally, it is important to note that this study was not longitudinal. By using regression, we assessed the degree to which S/R and coping mathematically predicted self-esteem and social anxiety; however, without measuring these variables over time, we cannot know whether S/R and coping truly alter adolescents' social and personal outcomes. It is likely that there is a more complex interaction among our variables, including bidirectionality and multiple causality. For example, adolescents with high self-esteem might be better at forgiving their peers and less likely to seek revenge, which in turn may further boost their self-esteem and reduce their social anxiety. Certainly, adolescents' social experiences impact their S/R and well-being (Carter et al., 2013). Future studies should examine mediational processes over time, such as whether S/R behaviors or attitudes predict a change in self-esteem or anxiety, in order to more clearly elucidate the dynamics of adolescent spiritual and social development.

In summary, the findings from the current study suggest that early adolescents' S/R is associated with aspects of their psychosocial adjustment through the strategies they use to cope with negative peer interactions. Because "spiritual development is likely a wellspring for the best of human life (e.g., generosity, unity, sacrifice, altruism, social justice) as well as for our darkest side" (Benson et al., 2003, p. 211), we should not ignore the very real contexts in which adolescents are embedded. Rather, we should seek a better understanding of how aspects of youths' S/R impact their interpersonal relationships and overall functioning as a basis for both formal and informal prevention and intervention efforts.

Sarah E. Hall

Kelly S. Flanagan

Wheaton College

Correspondence regarding this article should be directed to Sarah Hall at


Abdel-Khalek, A.M. (2011). Religiosity, subjective well-being, self-esteem, and anxiety among Kuwaiti Muslim adolescents. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 14, 129-141.

Benson, P. L., Roehlkepartain, E. C., & Rude, S. P. (2003). Spiritual development in childhood and adolescence: Toward a field of inquiry. Applied Developmental Science, 7, 205-213.

Benson, P.L., Scales, P.C., Sesma, A.R., & Roehlkepartain, E.C. (2006). Adolescent spirituality. Adolescent & Family Health, 4, 41-51.

Carpenter, T.P., Laney, T., & Mezulis, A. (2012). Religious coping, stress, and depressive symptoms among adolescents: A prospective study. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 4, 19-30.

Carter, J.C., Flanagan, K.S., & Caballero, A.B. (2013). Spirituality and peer victimization in early adolescence: Associations within a Christian school context. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 41, 150-160.

Causey, D.L., & Dubow, E.F. (1992). Development of a self-report coping measure for elementary school children. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 21, 47-59.

Compas, B. E., Connor-Smith, J. K., Saltzman, H., Thomsen, A., & Wadsworth, M. E. (2001). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence: Problems, progress, and potential in theory and research. PsychologicalBulletin, 127, 87-127.

Cotton, S., McGrady, M.E., & Rosenthal, S.L. (2010). Measurement of religiosity/spirituality in adolescent health outcomes research: Trends and recommendations. Journal of Religion and Health, 49, 414-444.

Crawford, E., Wright, M., & Masten, A.S. (2006). Resilience and spirituality in youth. In E.C. Roehlkepartain, P.E. King, L. Wagener, P.L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 355-370). Thousand Oaks, CA US: Sage Publications, Inc.

Davis, T. L., Kerr, B. A., & Kurpius, S. (2003). Meaning, purpose, and religiosity in at-risk youth: The relationship between anxiety and spirituality. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 31, 356-365.

Desrosiers, A., & Miller, L. (2007). Relational spirituality and depression in adolescent girls. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 63, 1021-1037.

Desrosiers, A., & Miller, L. (2008). Substance use versus anxiety in adolescents: Are some disorders more spiritual than others? Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 19, 237-253.

DuBois, D.L., Felner, R.D., Brand, S., & Phillips, R.C. (1996). Early adolescent self-esteem: A developmental--ecological framework and assessment strategy. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 6, 543-579.

Egan, L.A., & Todorov, N. (2009). Forgiveness as a coping strategy to allow school students to deal with the effects of being bullied: Theoretical and empirical discussion. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 28, 198-222.

Eisenberg, N., Castellani, V., Panerai, L., Eggum, N.D., Cohen, A.B., Pastorelli, C., & Caprara, G. (2011). Trajectories of religious coping from adolescence into early adulthood: Their form and relations to externalizing problems and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality, 79, 841-873.

Fetzer Institute (1999). Multidimensional Measurement of Religiousness/Spirituality for Use in Health Research. Kalamazoo, MI.

Flanagan, K. S., Loveall, R., & Carter, C. (2012). The spiritual craft of forgiveness: Its need and potential in children's peer relations and spiritual development. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 31, 315.

Flannelly, K.J., Galek, K., Ellison, C.G., & Koenig, H.G. (2010). Beliefs about God, psychiatric symptoms, and evolutionary psychology. Journal of Religion and Health, 49, 246-261.

French, D.C., Eisenberg, N., Vaughan, J., Purwono, U., & Suryanti, T.A. (2008). Religious involvement and the social competence and adjustment of Indonesian Muslim adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 44, 597-611.

Furrow, J.L., King, P., & White, K. (2004). Religion and positive youth development: Identity, meaning, and prosocial concerns. Applied Developmental Science, 8, 17-26.

Good, M., & Willoughby, T. (2008). Adolescence as a sensitive period for spiritual development. Child Development Perspectives, 2, 32-37.

Hardy, S.A., Walker, L.J., Rackham, D.D., & Olsen, J.A. (2012). Religiosity and adolescent empathy and aggression: The mediating role of moral identity. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 4, 237-248.

Hill, P.C., & Pargament, K.I. (2003). Advances in the conceptualization and measurement of religion and spirituality: Implications for physical and mental health research. American Psychologist, 58, 64-74.

Hunter, S.C., & Boyle, J.E. (2004). Appraisal and coping strategy use in victims of school bullying. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 83-107.

Kezdy, A., Martos, T., Boland, V., & Horvath-Szabo, K. (2011). Religious doubts and mental health in adolescence and young adulthood: The association with religious attitudes. Journal of Adolescence, 34, 39-47.

Kim, S., & Esquivel, G.B. (2011). Adolescent spirituality and resilience: Theory, research, and educational practices. Psychology in the Schools, 48, 755-765.

King, P., & Benson, P.L. (2006). Spiritual development and adolescent well-being and thriving. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. King, L. Wagener, P. L. Benson (Eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 384-398). Thousand Oaks, CA US: Sage Publications, Inc.

King, P., & Boyatzis, CJ. (2004). Exploring adolescent spiritual and religious development: Current and future theoretical and empirical perspectives. Applied Developmental Science, 8, 2-6.

Kochenderfer-Ladd, B. (2004). Peer victimization: The role of emotions in adaptive and maladaptive coping. Social Development, 13, 329-349.

Kochenderfer-Ladd, B., & Skinner, K. (2002). Children's coping strategies: Moderators of the effects of peer victimization? Developmental Psychology, 38, 267-278.

Ladd, G. W. (2005). Children's peer relations and social competence: A century of progress. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

La Greca, A.M., & Lopez, N. (1998). Social anxiety among adolescents: Linkages with peer relations and friendships. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 26, 83-94.

Mann, R.E., Paglia-Boak, A., Adlaf, E.M., Beitchman, J., Wolfe, D., Wekerle, C., & ... Rehm, J. (2011). Estimating the prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders in an adolescent general population: An evaluation of the GHQ12. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 9, 410-420.

Markstrom, C.A., Huey, E., Stiles, B., & Krause, A.L. (2010). Frameworks of caring and helping in adolescence: Are empathy, religiosity, and spirituality related constructs? Youth & Society, 42, 59-80.

Mason, M.J., Schmidt, C., & Mennis, J. (2012). Dimensions of religiosity and access to religious social capital: Correlates with substance use among urban adolescents. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 33, 229-237.

Nishina, A., Juvonen, J., & Witkow, M.R. (2005). Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will make me feel sick: The psychosocial, somatic, and scholastic consequences of peer harassment. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34, 37-48.

Parker, J. G., Rubin, K. H., Erath, S. A., Wojslawowicz, J. C., & Buskirk, A. A. (2006). Peer relationships, child development, and adjustment: A developmental psychopathology perspective. In D. Cicchetti, D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology, Vol 1: Theory and method (2nd ed.) (pp. 419-493). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Pearce, M.J., Jones, S.M., Schwab-Stone, M.E., & Ruchkin, V. (2003). The protective effects of religiousness and parent involvement on the development of conduct problems among youth exposed to violence. Child Development, 74, 1682-1696.

Perez, J.E., Little, T.D., & Henrich, C.C. (2009). Spirituality and depressive symptoms in a school-based sample of adolescents: A longitudinal examination of mediated and moderated effects. Journal of Adolescent Health, 44, 380-386.

Preacher, K.J., & Hayes, A.F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers, 36, 717-731.

Roeser, R., Isaac, S.I., Abo-Zena, M., Brittian, A.S., & Peck. S.C. (2008). Self and identity processes in spiritual development. In R. M. Lerner, R. Roeser, & Phelps, E. (Eds.) Positive Youth Development and Spirituality: From Theory to Research (pp. 74-108). West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.

Rose-Krasnor, L., & Denham, S. (2009). Social-emotional competence in early childhood. In K. H. Rubin, W. M. Bukowski, B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups (pp. 162-179). New York, NY: Guilford.

Sallquist, J., Eisenberg, N., French, D.C., Purwono, U., & Suryanti, T.A. (2010). Indonesian adolescents' spiritual and religious experiences and their longitudinal relations with socioemotional functioning. Developmental Psychology, 46, 699-716.

Sandstrom, MJ. (2004). Pitfalls of the peer world: How children cope with common rejection experiences. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32, 67-81.

Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2011). Coping with relationship stressors: A decade review. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 196-210.

Skinner, E.A., & Zimmer-Gembeck, MJ. (2007). The development of coping. Annual Review of Psychology, 58 119-144.

Smith, C. (2003). Religious participation and network closure among American Adolescents. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42, 259-267.

Sontag, L.M., & Graber, J.A. (2010). Coping with perceived peer stress: Gender-specific and common pathways to symptoms of psychopathology. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1605-1620.

Storch, E.A., Masia-Warner, C., Crisp, H., & Klein, R.G. (2005). Peer victimization and social anxiety in adolescence: A prospective study. Aggressive Behavior, 31, 437-452.

Visconti, K., & Troop-Gordon, W. (2010). Prospective relations between children's responses to peer victimization and their socioemotional adjustment. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31, 261-272.

Yonker, J.E., Schnabelrauch, C.A., & DeHaan, L.G. (2012). The relationship between spirituality and religiosity on psychological outcomes in adolescents and emerging adults: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 299-314.

Zimmer-Gembeck, MJ., Lees, D., & Skinner, E.A. (2011). Children's emotions and coping with interpersonal stress as correlates of social competence. Australian Journal of Psychology, 63, 131-141.

Zhao, X., Lynch, J.G., & Chen, Q. (2010). Reconsidering Baron and Kenny: Myths and truths about mediation analysis. Journal of Consumer Research, 37, 197-206.


Sarah E. Hall (Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, Pennsylvania State University) is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College. Dr. Hall's research interests focus on the emotion regulation in early childhood as well as risk and protective factors for the development of psychopathology in children and adolescents.

Kelly S. Flanagan (PhD. in Clinical Psychology, Pennsylvania State University) is Associate Professor and program director for the PsyD Clinical Psychology program at Wheaton College. Her research focuses on the reciprocal influences between children's relationships and their individual functioning, with particular interest in negative-peer experiences and the role of forgiveness and spiritual well-being in children's adjustment.
Table 1

Correlations among Spirituality / Religiosity, Coping,
and Outcome Variables

                              1.         2.         3.

1. Daily Spiritual Exp.       -
2. Forgiveness              .55 **       -
3. Spiritual Values         .64 **     .48 **       -
4. Spiritual Practices      .50 **     .41 **     .48 **
5. Active Coping            .32 **     .26 **     .29 **
6. Distancing Coping       -.12        .13        .00
7. Revenge Coping          -.28 **    -.28 **    -.14
8. Social Anxiety          -.21 **    -.22 **    -.11
9. Self-esteem              .36 **     .38 **     .27 **

                              4.         5.         6.

1. Daily Spiritual Exp.
2. Forgiveness
3. Spiritual Values
4. Spiritual Practices        -
5. Active Coping             .31 **       -
6. Distancing Coping        -.08       .02         -
7. Revenge Coping           -.178     -.35 **     -.17 *
8. Social Anxiety           -.19 *    -.04        -.00
9. Self-esteem               .19 *     .12         .03

                              7.         8.

1. Daily Spiritual Exp.
2. Forgiveness
3. Spiritual Values
4. Spiritual Practices
5. Active Coping
6. Distancing Coping
7. Revenge Coping             -
8. Social Anxiety           .20 *        -
9. Self-esteem             -.25 **    -.55 **

* p< .05, ** p< .01

Table 2

Regressions Predicting Social Anxiety and Self-esteem
from Spirituality / Religiosity and Coping

Variables                         F         change

Outcome: Social Anxiety

Step 1:                          2.43        .07
Daily Spiritual Experiences
Spiritual Values
Spiritual Practices

Step 2:                          1.85        .02
Coping: Active
Coping: Distancing
Coping: Revenge
Outcome: self-esteem

Step 1:                        6.93 **       .18
Daily Spiritual Experiences
Spiritual Values
Spiritual Practices

Step 2:                          4.39        .02
Coping: Active
Coping: Distancing
Coping: Revenge

Variables                        B     [beta]        t

Outcome: Social Anxiety

Step 1:
Daily Spiritual Experiences    -.15     -.13       -1.03
Forgiveness                    -.21     -.15       -1.44
Spiritual Values                .10      .10        .82
Spiritual Practices            -.13     -.11       -1.09

Step 2:
Coping: Active                  .12      .10       1.03
Coping: Distancing              .02      .02        .19
Coping: Revenge                 .13      .16     1.70 (t)
Outcome: self-esteem

Step 1:
Daily Spiritual Experiences     .16      .21     1.85 (t)
Forgiveness                     .23      .27      2.69 **
Spiritual Values                .02      .03        .27
Spiritual Practices            -.03     -.04       -.42

Step 2:
Coping: Active                 -.04     -.06       -.61
Coping: Distancing             -.01     -.01       -.16
Coping: Revenge                -.08     -.16       -1.72

(t) p < .10, * p < .05, ** p < .01
COPYRIGHT 2013 CAPS International (Christian Association for Psychological Studies)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Hall, Sarah E.; Flanagan, Kelly S.
Publication:Journal of Psychology and Christianity
Date:Sep 22, 2013
Previous Article:Meaning making in emerging adults' faith narratives: identity, attachment, and religious orientation.
Next Article:Romantic breakup as a sacred loss and desecration among Christians at a state university.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters