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Identity: an international journal of theory and research.

Adolescence is a period of identity development. Through identity and religious exploration, adolescents are able to understand who they are and how they can relate to others in relationships. The purpose of this study was to use qualitative methods to gain understanding of the nature and dynamics of adolescent religious exploration and the role that exploration has on identity formation.

Participants (N = 78) were adolescents ranging in age from 10 to 21 years old. They were recruited through religious leaders of different faith communities. Researchers contacted families and at times multiple adolescents within the same home were interviewed. Interviews were also conducted with parents and family present. Limitations and strengths to this approach are discussed. The interview included 26 open-ended questions to help guide conversation. They analysed the data in three stages using a grounded theory approach.

The qualitative analysis revealed three main themes: catylist for exploration, strategies in exploration, and patterns of exploration. First, various circumstances, contexts, and relationships helped adolescents to initiate religious exploration. Second, strategies used included asking questions and having conversations, pondering and self-reflection, having personal experiences, learning from other people's experiences, and appealing to authority. Thirdly, patterns of exploration seemed to be a complicated process whereby parts of their religious identity could be explored while other parts were held constant.

These findings help to illustrate the complexity of religious identity development in adolscents. Also, the nuances in identity development identified here can help to learn how researchers can continue to investigate this topic, either qualitatively or quantitatively. Openness to discussing religious beliefs and views with adolescents is an important piece of providing support through a challenging time.

Layton, E., Hardy, S. A., & Dollahite, D. C. Religious exploration among highly religious American adolescents

Volume 12, 157-184. (2012).

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Title Annotation:Journal File
Publication:Journal of Psychology and Theology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2014
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