Spirituality can be conceptualized as a sense of connectedness with God (or some other higher spiritual being).
Religiosity incorporates this spirituality, but includes the additional dimension of living the faith. Said another way, a
spiritual person may feel that they have a close relationship with God, but never go to church. A person high in religiosity, however, both has this close relationship with God and acts on this belief by going to church and engaging in other sorts of religious activities. Gallup polls consistently find that most Americans consider religion an important part of their lives.
In general, children and adolescents that are raised in families that value social responsibility and compassion internalize these values. These children and adolescents engage in higher levels of volunteerism and show greater compassion for those in need than children not raised in such homes (Flanagan, 2004). Children and adolescents raised by religious parents tend to internalize this belief system (Paloutzian & Park, 2005), especially if the parent-child relationship is good (Dudley, 1999; Ream & Savin-Williams, 2003; Streib, 1999). Numerous research studies (for example, see Cotton et al., 2006; Fehring et al., 1998; King & Benson, 2005; Oser, Scarlett& Butcher, 2006; Ream & Savin, Williams, 2003; Sinha, Cnaan & Gelles, 2007; Youniss, McLellan & Yates, 1999) have examined the impact of religiosity on youth development. Religiosity in adolescence is associated with many positive outcomes, including:
- Meaning and direction in life
- Healthy coping skills
- Higher levels of community service/volunteer work
- Lower drug use, alcohol use, and smoking rates
- Lower delinquency rates
- Lower risk-taking behavior
- Lower rates of premarital sex
- Less depression
- Better grades and less truancy
- Healthier role models
- Greater empathy for those in need
Religion continues to be important and associated with positive outcomes in adulthood.
Although it is important to keep in mind that not all Americans consider religion important their lives, for more than 70% of adults it is an important part of their identity and daily living (Brim, 1999). Religiosity typically increases with aging (Wink & Dillon, 2002). Women usually report higher levels of religiosity than men, and African Americans and Latinos report higher levels than European Americans (Idler, 2006; Taylor, Chatters & Levin, 2004). Religiosity is associated with better physical health, mental health, longevity, and coping skills (for exam- ple, see Gillum & Ingram, 2007; Hummer et al., 2004; Krause, 2006; McCullough & Laurenceau, 2005; Yoon& Lee, 2007). Some research indicates that by increasing meaning in life, religiosity results in a greater sense of well-being (Steger & Frazier, 2005).