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Title: Religion & psychological well-being : mapping the relationship between Christian religiosity & personality factors
Author: Tiliopoulos, Niko S.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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Religion is a central feature of human behaviour and thought that carries some unique properties that are of relevance to psychological inquiry, and has effects on the psychosocial world of the individual that are distinct, highly significant, and in certain areas considerably consistent. A number of overlapping approaches have been put forward in an attempt to describe and define religion. I argued that a definition should be testable, differentiating, wide enough, not ethnocentric, and unbiased, while at the same time meaningful within the context for which it was developed. For this thesis, religion was seen as the belief structures of the major formal systems of faith and the way these structures are used by the believers at both the personal and the collective level. The capacity ofthe individual to utilise these structures was termed religiosity or religiousness. The foundations of the psychology of religion were reviewed along with the main challenges the field has faced through the years leading to its present status. A literature review revealed that most psychological studies on religion seem to have serious methodological limitations, such as inappropriate sample types, little or no control over certain religious, psychological, or sociodemographic variables, simplistic at times implementation of statistical techniques, and almost a total neglect of qualitative methodologies. These limitations could have artificially reduced the strength of the association between religion and the psychological variables, and inflated the levels of bias in the findings. The presented investigation assessed the relationship between aspects of Christian faith and three major psychological constructs, viz. personality, identity, and attachment. More specifically, the variables ofprimary focus were: (1) religious orientation, and (2) schizotypal personality traits as defined by the DSMIV. Secondary variables that were treated as mediators were: (3) general personality traits, (4) aspects of identity, and (5) adult attachment styles. Additionally, variables included were: Religious practices relating to (6) church attendance and (7) prayer, (8) Christian denominations, (9) age, (10) gender, (11) social desirability, and (12) sociodemographic characteristics. The relationship between mainly the primary and secondary variables, with the central focus being on religiosity versus the rest, was considered from both a theoretical and an empirical perspective. The result helped formulate the predictions to be tested, and design of an integrated model to account for those relationships. In the first quantitative questionnaire study, 161 adult Christians, all British residents, took part. A non-probability purposive sampling was used. Participants were recruited from the undergraduate programs of the University of Edinburgh, the psychology department volunteer panel, and through individuals who served as intermediate contacts. Alongside descriptive questions, seven standardised psychometric questionnaires were used measuring religiosity (I/E-R and RLI), personality (EPQ-R-S), schizotypal traits (SPQ), identity (AIQ-IIIx), attachment (ECR), and desirable responding (BIDR-6). Religiosity had a unique and complex effect on schizotypy that was as strong as that ofmainstream psychological variables. The direction of this effect seemed to be determined by the interplay between the religious and the psychological profiles of the individual. The psychological one was of a relatively maladjusted individual, while the religious one was of an ordinary believer. The religious profile appeared to decrease the intensity of schizotypal traits; the psychological one did the opposite. This result suggested that religiosity on its own and in its "natural" state seems to enhance the well-being of the individual. It is only through its interplay with certain kinds and degrees of other psychological elements that psychopathology is born. The second study used qualitative interviews to focus on the identification of conceptual themes through the participants' religious discourse that directly related to the findings of the first study and the general thesis aims. This study utilised semi-structured, open-ended, telephone interviews with a sample of eight participants who had taken part in the first study, and selected through a process of theoretical sampling. Fifteen main interview-items were developed that addressed issues of religious life, upbringing, meaning, and practices. Interview transcripts were analysed through thematic analysis. The findings suggested that the main elements of a mental health-enhancing religion revolve around issues of a personal relationship with God, the degree in which religion is embedded in and provides meaning to one's life, the levels and nature of existential questioning, and the distinction between religious choice and inevitability. Religion is a complex, multidimensional concept; psychologists need to be more informed about its interactions with the individual's psychosocial world. For that to be possible, focussed and sophisticated psychological research methodologies need to be developed that would produce coherent, interpretive, and reliable models.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available