Religious/Spiritual Development and Positive Psychology: Toward an Integrative Theory

Edward B. Davis, James M. Day, Philip A. Lindia, Austin W. Lemke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Throughout the history of psychology, scholars and practitioners have sought to understand religious/spiritual (R/S) development and its intersections with well-being. Several models of R/S development have been proposed, but they have neither been well-integrated with each other nor studied and applied broadly in the field of positive psychology. This chapter’s purpose is to draw on existing longitudinal research on R/S development to propose an integrative theory that can guide developmental science and practice on religion, spirituality, and positive psychology. This Positive Religious and Spiritual Development (PRSD) theory posits that people’s religiousness/spirituality (a) is motivated by goals designed to meet psychological needs (e.g., for acceptance, predictability, and competence); (b) consists of mental/neural representations (stored beliefs, emotions, action tendencies, and physiological responses) and R/S habits that develop and change through relational experiences at the micro-, meso-, and macrolevels; (c) is influenced by numerous contextual factors (e.g., age, sex/gender, culture, and faith tradition), including personal and sociocultural assets and liabilities (risk and resilience factors); and (d) interacts bidirectionally with people’s holistic well-being via psychological, social, behavioral, and physical pathways. We offer illustrative examples of PRSD theory, highlight some of its caveats and limitations, and discuss its applications for clinical practice and religious ministry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Positive Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783031102745
ISBN (Print)9783031102738
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Development
  • Positive psychology
  • Religion
  • Spirituality
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'Religious/Spiritual Development and Positive Psychology: Toward an Integrative Theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this