Human Development Research

Relational Capacity & Ministry Performance: Consequences of the Evolved Social Brain

Justin Barrett, PhD

According to R. Dunbar's work an individual can maintain approximately 150 relationships. This project will seek to answer what happens when ministries have more than 150 relationships. The primary focus of this project will be on staff members and volunteers (who have less than 150 relationships). It will examine relational ministry staff, and volunteers' relational network sizes, ministry outcomes, and their life and job satisfaction. To further generalize the findings, as well as more closely examine the consequences of extrinsic motivation on exceeding relational capacity, relational ministers with different relational demands will be considered.

Is Religion Natural? The Chinese Challenge

Justin Barrett, PhD
As part of "The Chinese Challenge" project, funded by Templeton World Charity Foundation and led by Barrett and Ryan Hornbeck in collaboration with Liqi Zhu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the team examines whether children who acquire beliefs in gods are more likely to acquire particular classes of moral beliefs, e.g., concerning loyalty, purity, and harm.

The Science of Intellectual Humility

Justin Barrett, PhD

What does it mean to be intellectually humble, and how can intellectual humility be encouraged? Intellectual humility concerns how we come to hold and retain our beliefs. It is constituted by a state of openness to new ideas, receptivity to new sources of evidence and the implications of that evidence, and willingness to revise even deeply held beliefs in the face of compelling reasons. The project's ultimate goal is to inform work in philosophy, theology, and clinical psychology in ways that will lead to greater openness, more civil discourse, and flourishing in human relationships.

The Virtue of Patience and Well-Being

Sarah Schnitker, PhD

Patience, the propensity to wait calmly in the face of frustration, adversity, or suffering, is upheld as an important Christian virtue and critical component of human flourishing and well-being. This project seeks to examine ways in which patience relates to well-being, with a focus on mediation by goal achievement, emotion-regulation, spiritual growth, and physiological reactivity.

Strivings and Well-Being

Sarah Schnitker, PhD

The research team is in the process of creating and validating a nomothetic measure of eudemonic, hedonic, and spiritual strivings for use in adolescent populations. Relations between goals, traits, and well-being are examined to understand the interplay of personality levels in positive youth development.

Prayer Practices and Gratitude

Sarah Schnitker, PhD

This study compares the efficacy of gratitude and daily hassles journaling to prayers of thanksgiving and supplication to (1) build the virtues of gratitude and patience and (2) increase well-being.

Thrifty Behaviors and Beliefs

Sarah Schnitker, PhD

Thrift is an understudied virtue that is highly relevant in times of economic and environmental pressures. We are constructing and validating a scale to measure the multifaceted construct of thrift. Relations between thrift and other virtues are examined.

Spiritual Transformation and Virtue Development in Adolescents in Young Life

Sarah Schnitker, PhD
A common narrative in the Christian faith suggests that conversion involves transformation of the person, emphasizing growth in virtue. This narrative is commonly found in anecdotes about individual conversion and transformation, and is reinforced theologically in biblical passages like Galatians 5:22-23 and Matthew 7:15-27. Psychologically, research in the area of psychology of religion has found that adolescence is time highly associated with conversion (Starbuck, 1897; Paloutzian, 1999). However, little research has been conducted on the impact of conversion with longitudinal methodology. Therefore this study will investigate the possibility that the effects of conversion might be measurable over time in the lives of adolescents.

Spiritual Strivings, Goal Satisfaction, Virtue, and Well Being

Sarah Schnitker, PhD
The purpose of this study is to begin to examine the effect of character building interventions on adolescents participating in high school athletic programs. Athletic programs are popularly touted as primary conduits of character strength development in adolescents, but empirical research has yielded mixed results as to the efficacy of sports participation to instill virtue (Dierdorff, Surface, & Brown, 2010). This study begin with pilot testing in order to see which interventions have a significant effect on character development amongst high school athletes, in order to be able to know how to proceed in future studies looking more broadly at the effect of sports participation on virtue development. However, studies on character strength interventions have yet to directly compare the effects activities framed as building strengths versus fixing vices. This study will allow us to experimentally test the efficacy of a character development interventions framed either as building strengths or, conversely, fixing weakness

Creation & Psychometric Evaluation of a Nomothetic Spiritual Striving

Sarah Schnitker, PhD
In this research study, we aspire to develop a nomothetic scale to measure personal strivings encompassing multiple domains of the construct. Using a pool of varied personal strivings that has been developed in conjunction with the seminal authors in this area, we hope to show that a stable factor structure exists for some of the most common personal strivings. We then hope to apply this factor structure to our data to show that it can be used as an accurate assessment of adolescent personal strivings. Participants for the current study were recruited from several Young Life groups (in Illinois, Florida, and Michigan) during the summer of 2009 for a previous study. The data from this questionnaire will be analyzed using rational and empirical methods to determine whether the data fit into a stable and reliable factor structure. An exploratory factor analysis will be employed to determine which items group together under similar categories. Items with low item-total correlations, nearly duplicate items, and those that do not fit well within our factor structure will be deleted. If a reliable scale develops out of these analyses, several alternative models will be generated using varied factor structures. Structural equation modeling (SEM) will be used to identify which of these scale models best fits the data.

2013-2014 Research Fellowships

The School of Psychology offers multiple Research Fellowships every year. The following fellows are associated with Human Development Research.
  • Nathaniel Fernandez, Thrive Scholars Fellowship
  • Kelsy Richardson, Thrive Scholars Fellowship
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