Religious, Spiritual, and Moral Development and Learning in the Adult Years

James M. Day

in The Oxford Handbook of Reciprocal Adult Development and Learning

Second edition

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199736300
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Religious, Spiritual, and Moral Development and Learning in the Adult Years

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Religious and spiritual development, and their relationship(s) to moral development, have been of interest to psychologists since the inception of psychological science, including its experimental, personality, social, developmental, and clinical practitioners. Meanwhile, the psychology of religion, burgeoning with the renewed visibility and attention to the impact of religious beliefs and practices, has reinvigorated longstanding debates about religious influence on psychological well-being. What is religious and/or spiritual development as psychologists have defined them? How might development best be measured, assessed, and its mechanisms and processes charted across the life cycle? What is specific about religious development in the adult years, and in what way can it be said to be related to adult learning? Does moral development, as some writers central to this field have asserted, “precede” religious development because of the moral components in religious and spiritual dimensions of human conduct? Are there correctives for problematic areas in “traditional” developmental theories, having to do with constructs, measurement, and application? Does religion, as some have asserted, lead to the “dumbing-down” of humans’ capacity to grapple with complex problems? In what ways are religious and spiritual development meaningfully related to learning? What are the implications of these questions, and of research in this domain, for education, training, counseling, and psychotherapy? These and other questions, at once classic and contemporary, form the basis of this chapter.

Keywords: religious development; spiritual development; moral development; adult development; adult learning; human development; developmental psychology; faith development; religious judgment

Article.  21927 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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