Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Kere Hughes-Belding


There is a glaring lack of research on spiritual and religious development in human development journals. Emerging adulthood, specifically, is an important period to study religious and spiritual development because it is characterized by identity formation and an enhanced power of free will. Church attendance can provide a context for identity formation, but declines in religious service attendance are prevalent throughout late adolescence into emerging adulthood. Twelve first-year undergraduate students at a public Midwestern university who attended a Christian church regularly during their childhood participated in a semi-structured interview and shared their experiences, thoughts and feelings regarding church, their transition to college and their religious or spiritual identity. Six participants were attending a church or college ministry and 6 were non-attenders in college. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) revealed participants valued close relationships, acceptance, freedom of individual thought, and religious understanding at church and reasoned their attendance by previous church experience, desire for spiritual support and personal beliefs. Analysis also revealed critical events which coincided with changes in religious meaning or commitment. Additionally, a process of personalization of faith was discovered. Implications for these findings were discussed.


Copyright Owner

Neil Alan Rowe



File Format


File Size

62 pages

Included in

Religion Commons