Positive Youth Religious and Spiritual Development: What We Have Learned from Religious Families


youth religious/spiritual development, positive religious/spiritual development, family relationships, adolescent religious exploration, American Families of Faith project


In this article, we highlight the contributions of the findings from a branch of the American Families of Faith national research project that pertain to positive religious and spiritual development in youth. We present detailed findings from six previous studies on religious youth and their parents from diverse faith communities (various denominations in Christianity, three major branches of Judaism, and two major groups in Islam). We discuss what our findings suggest for positive religious/spiritual development, particularly in a family context. Finally, we suggest several ways to strengthen the literature on development in youth by exploring positive religious/spiritual development in relation to (a) social and political activism, (b) popular media and music, (c) participation in secular activities (e.g., sports, arts, gaming), (d) wrestling with BIG questions (i.e., questions involving Being, Intimacy, and God), (e) conversion and disaffiliation, (f) interfaith knowledge and experience, (g) impactful personal experiences, (h) volunteerism and service, (i) religious rituals, ceremonies, and traditions, (j) mental illness, (k) mindfulness and meditation, (l) temperament and personality, (m) agency and personal choices, (n) sexual orientation and experiences, and (o) generative devotion.

Original Publication Citation

Dollahite, D. C., & Marks, L. D. (2019). Positive youth religious and spiritual development: What we have learned from religious families. Religions, 10, 548. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100548

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL







Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor