2013. Vol.4, No.12, 994-997
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.412143
Changing Trends in Ritual Attendance and Spirituality
throughout the College Years
Chelsi A. Creech, Paul J. Handal, Sean A. Worley, Travis J. Pashak,
Eunice J. Perez, Lea Caver
Saint Louis University, St Louis, USA
Received October 8th, 2013; revised November 7th, 2013; accepted November 29th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Chelsi A. Creech et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights ©
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2013 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
According to previous literature, levels of religiousness decrease among emerging adults, but similar re-
search has not been done regarding levels of spirituality. The current study examined the responses of
college students to measures of religiousness and spirituality. The participants in the study were from a
private, religiously affiliated university in the Midwest, between ages 18 and 24. Participants completed
the Personal Religious Inventory (PRI), the Duke Religion Index (DUREL), the Spiritual Transcendence
Scale (STS), the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale (DSES) and the Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs
Scale (SIBS). Significant differences were found between first-year and upper-class participants on reli-
gious attendance, non-religious attendance, and the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale. Based on these re-
sults, it is suggested that multi-dimensional measures provide a more accurate view of religiousness than
Keywords: Religion; Spirituality; College Students
Until the 1960s, religiousness and spirituality were not con-
sidered as separate belief systems (Hood Jr., Hill, & Spilka,
2009). For this reason, religion and spirituality were not re-
searched as separate constructs until more recently (Zinnbauer
et al., 1997). In the last fifteen years, a body of research has
developed regarding the differences between the two constructs,
but the constructs are operationalized in almost as many differ-
ent ways as there are studies (Zinnbauer et al., 1997). In a 1993
study, Gorsuch suggested the following definitions: spirituality
encompasses a person’s beliefs, values, and behavior, whereas
religiousness is a personal involvement in a specific religious
institution and traditions (Hood Jr. et al., 2009). Some re-
searchers, however, suggest that there is no such thing as spiri-
tuality outside of institutional religion (Hood Jr. et al., 2009).
Other studies, such as Zinnbauer et al. (1997), show a frequent
interchanging of the two terms, despite attempting to highlight
differences between them.
In their textbook on the subject, Hood Jr. et al. (2009) high-
lighted five key characteristics they say to separate the two
constructs. Spirituality is personal and subjective, without an
institutional or organized structure, and with high importance
placed on commitments to personal values. It may not include a
deity. Religiousness, by this definition, is a type of spirituality.
It always involves spirituality and is objective, institutional and
creedal, but spirituality need not always include religiousness.
This confusion about the definitions has made concrete distinc-
tions difficult to come by, but what has been clear is the grow-
ing trend in American culture to identify as spiritual and not
religious, when participants are asked to self-identify. Most
recently, in 2010 the Pew Research on Religion and Public Life
Project (PEW), it is found that around 30% of the American
public would self-identify as “spiritual but not religious”. The
2012 PEW poll found that 20% of Americans do not claim any
religious affiliation. Based on these numbers, it seems clear that
people in general feel there is a difference between the two
terms, despite difficulties in researching such differences.
Supporting the notion that religiousness may be a subset of
spirituality, Kneipp, Kelly and Cyphers (2009) found that high
scores on the Spiritual Well Being scale accounted for 16% of
the differences between students on the Student Adaptation to
College Questionnaire. Religiousness, measured by the Relig-
iousness Measure/Demographic Questionnaire, only accounted
for another 6% of the variance between the students. Along
with suggesting that there is some overlap between the two
constructs, this study also showed the importance of spirituality
and religiousness in college adjustment. Those with higher
scores on the spirituality and religiousness scales also generally
had higher scores on the measure of college adjustment. How-
ever, this study looked only at the levels of spirituality and
religiousness in the first year of college and did not track the
changes that may occur throughout the college years.
Evidence suggests that levels of religiousness decrease
throughout the college years (Uecker, Regnerus, & Vaaler,
2007; Astin, Astin, & Lindholm, 2011; Scheitle, 2011). How-
ever, Lee (2002) reported a decrease in ritual attendance during
C. A. CREECH ET AL.
college, and also reported an increase in religious conviction
across the college years. This finding is of importance because it
focuses on what aspect of religion is measured in studies con-
cerned with an increase or decrease in religion during the col-
lege years. Apparently, the issue of measurement originated in
the early studies of religion which equated a decrease in ritual
attendance with a decrease in religious belief (Feldman, 1968).
More recently, Uecker et al. (2007) found that college students’
religious convictions decreased less than their non-college at-
tending peers. Based on this result, they posited that it was not
a decrease in belief that changed, but rather only religious at-
Contradictory results were reported by Astin et al. (2011)
who analyzed data from the Higher Education Research Insti-
tute’s Spirituality in Higher Education project. Their results
showed that students who self-identified as Christian as first
year students and attended Evangelical-affiliated schools showed
an increase in overall religiousness throughout college, but
Christian students at schools of other affiliations or secular
institutions decreased in religiousness, as measured by the Re-
ligious Tradition measure (RELTRAD). Students who self-
identified as members of a minority religion (e.g., Buddhism,
Islam, Judaism) and attended an Evangelical affiliated school
decreased in religiousness. Catholic and secular institutions
showed equal rates of decline in religiousness among all stu-
dents. At the Catholic institutions, this was equally true of the
Catholic students as well as those not affiliated with the Catho-
The literature is unclear about the relationship between re-
ligion and the college years. The literature shows a decrease in
religion, but it is unclear what is really decreasing—is it reli-
gious belief, conviction, or religious attendance? These dis-
crepancies seem to be a problem of measurement, namely what
is being measured; is it ritual attendance, or religious atten-
dance, or religious beliefs or religious convictions. Additionally,
it is notable that there is little research investigating the spiritu-
ality during the college years.
The present study investigated the relationship between re-
ligion and the college years by using a multi-dimensional
measure of religiousness, which assessed ritual attendance,
non-ritual attendance, and religious beliefs and practices. Addi-
tionally, this study investigated the relationship between spiri-
tuality and the college years by using three measures of spiritu-
ality, the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale (DSES), the Spiri-
tual Transcendence Scale (STS), and the Spiritual Involvement
and Beliefs Scale (SIBS).
Participants were 280 undergraduate students from a private
Midwestern university. The study included students between
the ages of 18 and 24 (M = 19.91, SD = 3.47). Of the 280, 190
were female (66%) and 196 were Caucasian (69%). There were
147 Catholics (52%), 56 other Christians (20%), 29 were athe-
ist or agnostic (9%), 15 were Hindus (5%), 6 were Muslims
(2%), and 25 were some other religion (9%). Two participants
chose not to report their religious affiliation. Freshmen or first
year students numbered 169 (60%) of the sample. Sophomore
participants numbered 52 (19%). Juniors numbered 42 (15%),
and seniors numbered 15 (5%). Because of the small N of jun-
iors and seniors, they were combined for analysis, for an N of
Spiritual ity Measures
The 2004 Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale (DSES) is
measured by a 16-item index. Participants were asked to
indicate how often they have certain spiritual experiences. The
responses range from never (coded 1), to many a day (coded 6).
Items were coded in the direction that higher scores reflected a
greater level of daily spiritual experiences (a = .96). Scores
were summed for each respondent and then averaged across
the 16 items. One of these items (“In general, how close do
you feel to God?”) is reverse scored in a 4-point metric (not at
all, somewhat close, very close, as close as possible) instead
of a 6-point likert scale. To be consistent with the directionality
(Underwood, 2002), the raw score of this item is reversed
coded and the 4-point scale is adjusted to fit the 6-point spec-
trum. The adjusted score is averaged for this subscale into the
total for the resulting mean score. Further, the scale was di-
vided into two subscales: a “theistic” subscale, with an alpha
reliability of .95 and a “non-theistic (self-transcendent)” sub-
scale, with an alpha reliability of .90 (Ellison & Fan, 2007).
The Spiritual Transcendence Scale (STS) is a 24-item scale,
developed by Piedmont (2009), which consists of three sub-
scales: universality, prayer fulfillment, and connectedness.
Universality is the belief in the unity and purpose of life, prayer
fulfillment is a feeling of joy and contentment that results from
prayer or meditation, and connectedness is a sense of personal
responsibility and connection to others. The scale items were
answered on a 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree) likert-
type scale. Piedmont (2009) showed these scales to have ac-
ceptable reliabilities for the subscales: .83 for universality, .87
for prayer fulfillment, and .64 for connectedness (Akyalcin,
Greenway, & Milne, 2008).
The Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale (SIBS) (Hatch
et al., 1998) was designed to measure participants’ spiritual
status. It consists of four sub-scales. The first is the external/
ritual scale, which is a 13-item scale that reflects belief in a
greater power. Second is the internal/fluid scale, with 11 items
that reflect internal beliefs and growth. The third is the existen-
tial/meditative subscale, seven items which reflect existential
issues. Finally is the humility/personal application subscale
with four items that reflect humility and application of spiritual
principles. Internal reliability statistics for three of the subscales
are satisfactory: external/ritual, α = .98; internal/fluid, α = .74;
existential/meditative, α = .70) but perhaps, as Hatch et al.
(1998) suggest, not for humility/personal application sub-scale
(α = .51). The internal consistency of the SIBS was reportedly
high (Cronbach’s alpha = .92) and presented a test-retest reli-
ability of r = .92. This scale strengthens measures of spirituality
by evading the usage of cultural-religious bias, and assessment
of beliefs and actions (Maltby & Day, 2001).
The PRI (Lipsmeyer, 1984) is a 45-item, nine scale, multi-
dimensional measure of religiosity. The scales measure per-
sonal prayer (PRP); ritual attendance (RA); non-ritual, church-
related activity (NRA); belief in God (BLFGOD); belief in an
afterlife (AFTLIFE); perceived congruence of a person’s reli-
Open Access 995
C. A. CREECH ET AL.
gious beliefs with their attitudes on social and moral issues
(RSM); the extent to which an individual’s ideas about religion
guide their philosophy or way of life (IDEO); the subjective
experience of feeling close to God (CLOSEGOD) ; and inte-
gration or the extent to which persons perceive that their
relationship with God influences their cognition, affect, and
behavior (INT). Most of the items use a 6-point Likert re-
sponse format; however, others use a multiple-choice or yes/no
According to Lipsmeyer, test-retest reliability coefficients
over a one-week period were between .83 and .97 for the nine
scales in an adult population. Additionally, Lipsmeyer found
that the PRI had high concurrent validity; religious profes-
sionals (e.g., priests, ministers, nuns) scored significantly high-
er on all scales than the general public. Also, Lipsmeyer re-
ported that atheists, agnostics, and those with no religious
preference scored significantly lower than other major reli-
gious groups. Lipsmeyer reported that each subscale of the
PRI correlated highest with integration (INT), and that it had
the highest stability coefficient and was the best single measure
of religion (Ross, Handal, Clark, & Vander Wal, 2009).
The Duke University Religion Index (DUREL) is a five-item
measure of religious involvement that is incorporated in epide-
miological surveys inspecting the affiliation between religion
and health outcomes (Koenig & Bussing, 2010). This brief
measure of religiosity was established for use in both cross-
sectional and longitudinal studies. It evaluates three main di-
mensions of religiosity: organizational religious activity, non-
organizational religious activity, and intrinsic/subjective religi-
osity. The scale assesses each of these components by a sepa-
rate “subscale”, and correspondences between health outcomes
should be examined by subscale in different models. The scale
as a whole displayed high test-retest reliability (intra-class cor-
relation = .91), high internal consistence (Cronbach’s alpha’s
= .78 - .91) and has high convergent validity with other religi-
osity measures (r’s = .71 - .86).
The participants also completed a 22-item demographic
questionnaire. These items asked about a participant’s age, eth-
nicity, sex, religious affiliation, college living arrangement,
volunteer and work positions, and finally whether a participant
identified as spiritual, religious or both.
Participants were recruited from undergraduate psychology
classes. Some classes (approximately 66%) offered class credit
for participation, while the other classes were not offered in-
centives for participation. Participants accessed the study via
SONA, a university-approved research recruitment program, or
through a link provided to them by professors who helped with
recruitment. After accessing the study, they were directed to a
link to the Qualtrics site that was hosting the survey. Partici-
pants first answered the demographic questionnaire. Next, the
participants progressed through the Duke University Religious
Index, the Personal Religious Inventory, the Daily Spiritual
Experience Scale, the Spiritual Transcendence Scale, and the
Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale. Participants were en-
couraged to complete all sections in order, but were able to
progress through the questionnaires at will. Participants were
able to end the survey at any time, and were able to skip any
questions they chose.
In order to determine whether significant differences existed
on the measures on religion and spirituality, a series of analyses
of variance were computed and for significant F-values, follow
up Tukey’s HSD were computed to determine differences be-
tween groups. Results of these analyses revealed that signifi-
cant differences existed on measures of ritual attendance (F(2,
286) = 5.09, p < .007), non-ritual attendance (F(2, 286) = 3.63,
p < .027), and the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale (F(2, 286)
= 4.88, p < .008). No significant differences were found on the
other religion and spirituality measures.
Results for Ritual attendance revealed that first year students
reported significantly higher levels of Ritual attendance (RA)
(M = 13.04, SD = 5.13) than upper-class students (M = 11.28,
SD = 5.55, p < .01). There were no significant differences be-
tween the sophomore participants and either the first-year or the
upper-class participants, with regard to ritual attendance.
Results for Non-Ritual attendance (NRA) revealed that, first
year participants reported significantly higher levels of NRA
(M = 10.65, SD = 4.59) than upper-class participants (M = 9.27,
SD = 4.56, p < .01). There were no significant differences be-
tween the sophomore participants and either the first year or the
upper-class participants, with regard to religious attendance.
Finally, first year participants reported significantly higher
scores on the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale (M = 57.73, SD
= 16.54) than upper-class participants (M = 51.56, SD = 18.56,
p < .009). There were no significant differences between the
sophomore participants and either the first year or the upper-
class participants, with regard to religious attendance.
The results of this study, namely that ritual attendance and
non-ritual attendance decreases during college, support the
findings reported by Lee (2002) and extend them in terms of
our finding that non-ritual attendance also decreases during
college. This later finding is not surprising since it may be ex-
pected that attendance at non-ritual church events would de-
crease because college students appear to be decreasing their
attendance at ritual events.
It is notable that no significant differences were reported for
the DUREL measure, which is a measure of religion. It is likely
that differences were found with the PRI and not with the
DUREL because the PRI is a multi-dimensional measure, with
separate scales for each of nine dimensions, whereas the
DUREL, although it has one item that asks about church atten-
dance, consists of a total score, which precludes a sensitivity to
the specific area of ritual and non-ritual attendance.
Additional results revealed that spirituality, as measured by
the DSES, decreased during the college years. However, this
finding did not occur on the other measures of spirituality,
namely the STS and the SIBS. It is possible that these results
are due to the fact that the DSES purports to measure how often
certain spiritual experiences occur, while the other two scales
purport to measure beliefs in unity, contentment, a greater
power and other internal beliefs. It may be that the DSES is
more experiential and the other measures are more cognitive.
These results are intriguing and certainly require additional
C. A. CREECH ET AL.
Open Access 997
This study reflects the existence of an ongoing difficulty in
research in the area of religion and spirituality, namely the dif-
ficulty that exists in measuring the constructs of religion and
spirituality. Contradictory findings may be explained by the
difference in the measures employed in a particular study as
operation definitions of the constructs of religion and spiritual-
Our results were found with a relatively small sample, which
would lend itself to a Type II error. It would be important that
additional research occur with a larger sample across each year
level to replicate our findings and to determine whether a Type
II error occurred on the other measures of spirituality.
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