Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Lisa L. Harlow


The focus of this thesis is the role of spirituality within the quality of life. This role is explored in a macro-level approach by investigating the overall relationships between existential well-being, of which spirituality is seen as a part of, and life functioning. This macro-level investigation is then followed by a more detailed, variable specific micro-level delineation of relationships.

Recognizing the fact that spirituality cannot be discussed without an implicit reference to the overall concept of religion, the connections between spirituality and religion is explicitly discussed, although this connection is not the focus of this study. Thus, by way of providing the proper context within which the findings of this thesis are to be located, this thesis discusses the recent increased interest in spirituality and religion within psychological literature, current trends in the research regarding both spirituality and religion, including the emerging schism between these two topics, and draws attention to the need for clarity and sophistication in the discussion of any concept of spiritual or religious interest.

Empirical data is presented on a sample of 419 undergraduate students (273 female) of a New England state university gathered for the purposes of a Student Affairs quality of life assessment. As part of the preliminary analyses, the development of an existential spirituality scale is presented. The main analysis, a canonical correlation analysis between psycho-existential variables (i.e. purpose in life, self-esteem, satisfaction with life, existential spirituality. social extrinsic religiosity and personal extrinsic religiosity) and selected life f1mctioning variables pertaining to undergraduate students, revealed one dominant relationship between these two groups and two marginal relationships. The dominant relationship (R2 = .60) describes a link between high self-esteem, purpose in life, and satisfaction with life on the one hand, and high coping skills, family affect, family communication, social responsibility, and health, and low experienced stress and family conflict on the on the other hand.

The role of existential spirituality in the macro-level connection between existential well-being and life functioning was found to be of marginal importance. The micro-level investigation was conducted through follow-up multiple regressions of the life functioning variables. Here, the findings of the macro level investigation were echoed by the lack of significance of spirituality in predicting most of the life-functioning variables, with the only exception being social responsibility.

Future directions and limitations of this study are discussed.



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