Spirituality as a key asset in promoting positive youth development: Advances in research and practice

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Abstract

Spirituality is a universal human experience. Within the process of development, the role of spirituality as a developmental asset is understudied in general and especially within majority world contexts. In this article, we frame advances in spirituality research and practice with youth around three pillars: (a) theory, (b) measurement, and (c) research about and evaluations of positive youth development (PYD) programs in low- and middle-income countries. We place PYD programs as associated with dynamic, relational developmental systems (RDS)-based models of human development, describe spirituality and the “Big Three” features of effective PYD programs as aligning to promote thriving, and discuss spirituality as a strength, as a key asset, in the lives of youth. We discuss advances in developmental methods and measures for describing, explaining, and promoting spirituality and PYD and offer a case study that responds to a United States Agency for International Development call for action and evaluations of spirituality within the context of a PYD program in the majority world. Considerations for future research about spirituality and youth development are discussed.

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Elizabeth Dowling
University of New Brunswick

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