Spiritual modeling, faith-identity and risk behaviors : an investigation of emerging adults' faith-identity development in college
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Emerging adulthood has been emphasized as a time of exploration generally and of religious or faith-identity specifically, and successful resolution of this aspect of identity holds important consequences related to risk behaviors. The goal of this investigation was to better understand the types of faith-identities found in college, how emerging adults' relationships with parents related to their own faith-identities and how each faith-identity was related to risk behaviors. Spiritual Modeling, a type of modeling rooted in social learning theory, (Bandura; 1977; King, 2003; Oman & Thoreson, 2003) was expected to be predictive of emerging adults' faith-identities, while parent-emerging adult relationship quality and parental conflict were thought to moderate the relationship between spiritual modeling and faith-identity. Faith-Identity was expected to differentiate across binge drinking, marijuana use and number of sexual partners, and sensation seeking was thought to moderate the relationship between faith-identity and risk behaviors. Seven hundred ninety students completed an online survey across 11 large public and private religious universities. Spiritual Modeling was strongly predictive of both religious and commitment oriented faith-identities. The relationship between Spiritual Modeling and Faith-Identity was not moderated by relationship quality or parental conflict. A more religiously oriented faith-identity was predictive of fewer sexual partners and less binge drinking, while a more commitment oriented faith-identity was predictive of less marijuana use. High levels of sensation seeking amplified the relationship between a more secular faith identity and binge drinking. Commitment and Religious faith-identities significantly moderated the relationship between faith-identity and both binge drinking and number of sexual partners. Evidence is suggestive that a religiously oriented faith-identity may be more protective in combination with high levels of commitment while a faith-identity characterized by secularism and high commitment appears least protective. The potential utility of a faith-identity construct in emerging adulthood and future research directions are discussed.