African-American youth living in disadvantaged neighborhoods are exposed to many conditions that their more advantageous peers are not. For African-American adolescents living in at-risk communities, violence, crime, and drugs may be a way of life. Because of this, these children are more susceptible to negative psychological outcomes than their non-at-risk peers. Various approaches have been developed and applied to help these young people overcome the challenges they face. However, often a significantly important coping strategy is overlooked. For young people who are religious or spiritual, accessing this emotional resource may be an effective tool that can improve their psychological well-being.
To test this theory, Donna K. Shannon of the Department of Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care at Loyola University in Maryland recently led a study assessing the protective effects of spirituality and religion in a sample of 214 African-American teenagers enrolled in a parochial school in an urban community. She evaluated how spirituality weakened the negative effects of a violent environment, and how spirituality and religious coping strengthened life satisfaction. Shannon found that the teens who had daily spiritual experiences had higher levels of life satisfaction and used positive religious coping more than those who did not experience spirituality.
Shannon also discovered that even though family support was an important protective factor, spirituality acted as a more significant buffer against the negative impact of being exposed to violence. When she looked at trait levels of anxiety and negative affect, Shannon found that spirituality did not influence those levels. Perhaps individuals who have chronic exposure to violence develop more negative affect, and therefore do not respond as well to the positive effects of spirituality as those who are in a heightened state of stress. Regardless, Shannon believes that these results demonstrate that clinicians should consider spirituality in sessions as it may open new doors for some teens. “The ﬁndings of this study support the integration of spirituality in psychotherapy with religiously oriented adolescents,” said Shannon.
Shannon, D. K., Oakes, K. E., Scheers, N. J., Richardson, F. J., and Stills, A. B. (2012). Religious beliefs as moderator of exposure to violence in African American adolescents. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030879
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.