Exploring Emerging Adults’ Relational Spirituality: A Longitudinal, Mixed-Methods Analysis

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Using a longitudinal, mixed-methods design and building on Shults and Sandage’s (2006) relational spirituality model, we explored spiritual seeking, spiritual dwelling, and the dialectical process of balancing spiritual seeking and dwelling. Assessing a sample of 77 Christian emerging adults twice over a 2-year period (thirty-nine 2006 graduates and thirty-eight 2008 graduates), we quantitatively measured spiritual seeking (using the Quest Scale) and qualitatively measured spiritual dwelling (using narratives of spiritual experiences) and the dialectical-balancing process (using narratives of faith turning points and of spiritual change in recent years). Results indicate that at 4 years postgraduation, emerging adults exhibit a more well-integrated (faith-life engagement), more communally oriented, and less personally focused spirituality. This pattern is especially likely among emerging adults who exhibit high spiritual questing along with mature reflections on transformative events in their spiritual lives. The promise of using qualitative, mixed-methods, and longitudinal methodologies to explore emerging adults’ relational spirituality is discussed.

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