Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The purpose of this grounded theory study was to develop a theoretical model describing the influence of spirituality and/or religiosity on late adolescent behavior. Multiple quantitative research studies have linked spirituality and/or religiosity with both decreased health-risk behaviors and increased health-promotion behaviors during adolescence. However, as reductionist methods have not revealed underlying reasons for these relationships, the ability to apply this knowledge to practice is limited. Additionally, there is a lack of clear definitions for spirituality and/or religiosity firm enough to bridge disciplinary boundaries. A qualitative research perspective, which takes into account the embodied experience and development of individuals during late adolescence, is needed to discover meaning, beliefs, and practices that can inform why the relationships between spirituality and/or religiosity and health-risk and health-promotion behaviors exist.

Research questions were structured to discover both the maturation of spirituality during late adolescence as well as the areas of influence spirituality and/or religiosity had on behavior during late adolescence. Blumer's Symbolic Interactionism and embodiment were the conceptual lenses informing the study. Twenty-one adolescents, age 16–21 years, from two international educational institutions in central Spain and one non-profit after-school program in the United States for high-risk adolescents were interviewed electronically by email. A grounded theory research design was used to analyze the data. From this analysis, a theoretical model emerged with a core concept of finding myself that represents four core process concepts with in vivo titles: (a) humans need a guide, (b) what drives me, (c) I have resources, and (d) sensing this human spark and effects on my development.

Implications of this study are threefold: (a) the use of electronic recruitment and email interviewing of late adolescent populations is an effective method to increase access to the population under study and reduce power differentials during the research process; (b) late adolescents are aware of their personal spiritual maturation as well as its influence on health; therefore the continued exploration of this phenomenon regarding adolescent health is warranted; and (c) the use of an embodied perspective when investigating adolescent health can illuminate information previously concealed by reductionist research methods.