Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Julie Ann Pooley

Abstract

Research in the field of community psychology supports findings that membership, influence, integration and fulfilment of needs, a shared emotional connection, and a sense of belonging contribute to a sense of community (SOC) (McMillan & Chavis, 1986). Sarason (1993) proposes that individuals have a basic instinctual need for transcendence which leads them to seek religious groups and experiences. Hill (1993; 2000) posits that Sarason's sense of transcendence (SOT) is a construct that is closely related to and can be useful for conceptualizing and exploring spirituality and suggests that SOC may not be fully understood until Sarason's (1993) related concept of SOT is explored. Furthermore, Hill suggests that it is the aspect of existence that people refer to as spiritual which forms the basis for religious beliefs. This review will discuss research that explores how involvement in a religious community affects wellbeing (Frazier, Mintz, & Mobley, 2005; Mattis, 2002; Wink & Dillon, 2003); how different ways of being religious relate differentially to wellbeing and other psychosocial outcomes (Allport, 1950; Batson & Ventis, 1982; Batson, Schoenrade, & Ventis, 1993); how different ways of being religious relate to identity integration (Hackney & Sanders, 2003; Ryan, Rigby, & Scott, 1993); and how the relationship between religious orientation and identity integration influences psychosocial outcomes, prejudiced attitudes and moral behaviour (Fulton, 1997; Maclean, Walker, & Matsuba, 2004). SOC, SOT, and identity are also discussed in reference to the work of Maslow (Koltko-Rivera, 2006) and Erikson (Guisinger & Blatt, 1994). Implications for a greater understanding of religious and spiritual perspectives in psychology are discussed. The concept of psychological sense of community was first posited by Sarason (1974). Sarason (1993) also proposed that individuals have a basic instinctual need for transcendence which leads them to seek religious communities and experiences. Research supports findings that membership, influence, integration and fulfilment of needs, a shared emotional connection, and a sense of belonging contribute to a sense of community (SOC) (McMillan & Chavis, 1986). However, few studies have explored SOC in religious settings. Furthermore, religion and spirituality have been considered to be fundamental to identity (James, 1958; Jung, 1964; Marcia, 1980), with recent studies exploring the relationship between religious involvement and identity integration (Hackney & Sanders, 2003; Ryan, Rigby, & King, 1993). The aim of this study was to explore experiences of community and identity in a religious setting. Conceptualisations of community, identity, and relationships between them were explored among 12 Anglican Christians using semi-structured in-depth interviews. Results were analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis. Participants identified six interrelated concepts: (1) Active involvement and participation; (2) Support, for and from the Christian community, and for the wider community; (3) Sense of belonging; (4) Identity; (5) Journey; and (6) Religion and Spirituality. Implications of this research include a greater understanding of SOC, of religious perspectives in psychology, and religious identity development. Implications for future research are discussed.

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