Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

8-2014

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Leach, Mark M.

Committee Member

Owen, Jesse

Committee Member

Possel, Patrick

Committee Member

Shuck, Brad

Subject

Religiousness--Psychological aspects; Mental health--Religious aspects

Abstract

Religiousness has frequently been found to positively predict numerous types of beneficial mental health variables in previous literature. These results have often been inferred by scholars to mean that secular groups have poorer levels of mental health despite rarely including secular populations in studies. An ideological diverse sample of 4,667 respondents provided usable data in the current correlational study that measured the relationships between general dogmatism levels, existential belief strength, spiritual coping, spiritual harmony (i.e., the degree to which one lives in accordance with their self-defined values) and six indicators of mental health. The sample was comprised mainly of agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and spiritual nonreligious participants. Multi-group analyses within structural equation models and multivariate analysis of covariance procedures were used to investigate hypotheses. The data showed that religious and secular adherents had null differences on five of the six mental health indicators. Further, dogmatism, existential belief strength, and spiritual coping levels all had small-sized standardized regression weights that were statistically significant but weakly predictive of mental health levels even when measured at the ideological group level. Spiritual harmony levels were the only statistically significant standardized regression weight across all groups that was large in magnitude. The implications of the current study suggest that living in accordance with one’s spiritual values, regardless of how those values are defined, is strongly characteristic of better mental health.

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