The moderating effect of spirituality on the relationship between stressful life events and depression and anxiety among adolescents

Nekedria L Clark, Pace University


Research in the area of developmental psychology has shown that adolescence is the period of the life span during which individuals attempt to solidify their identities. One aspect of this process is developing a system of beliefs and values by which a person can live. The system of values may include spiritual beliefs, which are often subject to intense evaluation during adolescence. Once the adolescent has chosen his or her spiritual “creed” he or she has to determine the role in which it will play in his or her life. Studies have shown that spirituality plays an important role in the lives of adults. Research with adult samples has shown positive correlations between spirituality and psychological adjustment, happiness, health and life satisfaction. A 2000 study by Young et al. found that spirituality acted as a moderator between life stressors and the psychological symptoms of anxiety and depression. Although they report a very similar value for spirituality in their lives, this type of research with adolescent populations is lacking. The purpose of this study was to determine whether spirituality would moderate the effect of life stressors on anxiety and depression. The study sought to replicate the results of Young et al. with an adolescent rather than adult population. The sample consisted of 100 adolescents ranging in age from 14 to 17 years and in the 9th through 12th grades. The participants were asked to complete the Adolescent Perceived Events Scale (APES), Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale (SIBS), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Results revealed a positive correlation between life stressors and levels of anxiety, and a negative correlation between the mean impact of life stressors and depression. Spirituality negatively correlated with depression and anxiety, and it significantly predicted levels of anxiety and depression above life stressors. The moderation effect found in the Young et aL study was not replicated in this study. Current results showed that with an increase in spirituality the relationship between life stressors and anxiety became positive and gained strength. Differences between adolescent and adult manifestations of anxiety, as well as the adolescent's need to understand and assimilate important life events into his or her newfound belief system are proposed as possible explanations for the pattern of the results obtained in the study.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Clark, Nekedria L, "The moderating effect of spirituality on the relationship between stressful life events and depression and anxiety among adolescents" (2004). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3115005.



Remote User: Click Here to Login (must have Pace University remote login ID and password. Once logged in, click on the View More link above)