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World’s youth value spirituality, yet find few people to talk to

A two-year international study of youth and spirituality reveals respondents view spirituality as an important part of their lives, and most of them rarely talk to others about it, but wish they could.

"In most countries where surveys were conducted, an average of only 7 percent of youth said they didn’t believe life has a spiritual dimension or they didn’t know," the report of the survey stated in one of the findings. "Among youth who believe there is a spiritual dimension to life, they are most likely to understand it as ‘believing there is a purpose to life’, ‘believing in God’, or ‘being true to one’s inner self’."

Said Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, co-director of the Center for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence, "We have spent two years listening to youth aged 12 to 25 from many countries and traditions talk about spiritual development and its role in their lives."

Roehlkepartain, whose Minneapolis-based organization sponsored the study, said, "Many young people are keenly interested in these issues, but relatively few have opportunities to talk with others about the things that really matter to them."

The study says it offers one of the first snapshots of spiritual development across multiple countries and traditions. More than 7000 individuals from 16 countries on six continents participated in the study. One of its findings was that most youth surveyed believe there is a spiritual dimension to life, and about one-third see themselves as "very" or "pretty" spiritual.

The study also found the young people see religion and spirituality as related, but different. Both religion and spirituality are viewed positively by a majority of youth. Those surveyed also said family and friends help them spiritually, but about one in five youth (18 percent) say that no one helps them.

Still, those young people surveyed said that experiences such as being in nature, listening to or performing music, being alone, and relationships with friends and family, help them the most in growing spiritually.

When asked what it primarily means to them to be spiritual, youth in the United States said it means believing there is a purpose to life (41 percent) and believing in God (33 percent). In comparison, youth surveyed in India indicated that being spiritual means being true to one’s inner self (38 percent) and believing in God (33 percent).

The research was conducted through a series of methods: focus groups in 13 countries with 175 young people, individual interviews in six countries with 32 young people, and surveys in eight countries. The Search Institute’s Center for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence is a global initiative committed to advancing scientific study of spiritual development in young people. The institute says it is an independent, non-profit, non-sectarian organization.

To read more go to the Center’s website: www.spiritualdevelopmentcenter.org/

(c) Ecumenical News International