Religious Beliefs in Emerging Adulthood: The Effects of the Freshman Year of College on Religious Beliefs in the Context of a Gap Year in Israel
Spierer, Jeremy A.
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This study was designed to better understand the factors that influence religious belief and change of belief during the freshman year of college. This study focused on a specific population: 256 emerging adults (ages 18-19 years old), all Orthodox Jews, men and women, who had studied for at least one year in Israel prior to entering college. They were studied at the conclusion of their year in Israel and again after completing their first year of college in the United States, completing measures that studied Jewish Religious Beliefs and Actions (JewBale), Self-Esteem (Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale) and Family Cohesiveness (Family Environment Scale). The study investigated which of the following factors contributed to a change in belief: university environment, numbers of years in Israel, gender, self-esteem, and family cohesiveness — finding significance in environment, number of years, and gender. A multiple regression was conducted to determine whether these factors predicted the difference in change of belief between the conclusion of the year in Israel and the first year of college. The model was found to be significant only for gender. In addition, attention was given to the impact on specific beliefs. First, we separated the beliefs into "overall beliefs without Israel" and "Israel beliefs." Within overall beliefs, 10 belief questions were subdivided into five areas: Divine Providence related to the world, Divine Providence related to the individual, Love / Awe / Fear of God, Rabbinic Law, and Mesorah (transmission). While we found significant results in questions from different areas, Love/ Awe/ Fear of God predicted the change in overall belief. Recommendations for further research and implications for Jewish educators are included.