My sense of spiritual self: a qualitative study of role-related adult spiritual identity



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Texas Tech University


From the fountainhead of Erik Erikson's identification of identity as the most prominent issue across the life span, research has contributed significantly to the exploration of identity development. Despite advancements, little attention has been directed toward understanding an individual's sense of their spiritual self The absence of such research is notable considering the profound interest of Erikson in detailing the developmental psychohistories of key significant spiritual leaders.

From the theoretical foundations of Erikson's psychosocial developmental perspective and George H. Mead's symbolic interactionism, one's sense of spiritual identity is regarded as a role in which the ultimate questions of life are mediated. This study utilizes an extensive, qualitative interview called the Role-Related Identity Interview (RRII) to explore the salience and flexibility of a respondent's sense of spiritual identity. Interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of fifteen males and fifteen females, ranging in age from 22 to 72 and differing in race, marital status, and religious orientation. Using multiple indicators, these interviews were utilized to explore respondent's sense of spiritual self. Characterizations of four spiritual identity patterns are described as an extension of James Marcia's depiction of identity statuses. The metaphor of space provides a helpful means to distinguish among these patterns and how they are constructed. Limitations of the study and directions for future research are noted.