Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Rita Casey


An increasing number of researchers have confirmed the important role of religion and spirituality, not only in the psychological and emotional domains but also in physical health. Several researchers note that various forms of spirituality and religiousness can help Asian immigrants cope with the upheavals of immigration, adaptation to a new country, and other difficult personal and social transformations related to being in a new culture. Especially for Korean immigrants, churches and religious organizations act as a powerful support group. However, few empirical studies have paid attention to this topic, considering the importance of religion and spirituality to most individuals. The first aim of this study was to address adult's religiousness and spirituality development. The second goal of this study was to identify the contribution of multiple dimensions of religiousness and spirituality to physical, psychological, and emotional well-being. In addition, this study compared Korean immigrant's religious/spiritual involvement to that of Caucasian persons. Finally, this study examined how the differences in religious/spiritual involvement between Korean immigrants and Caucasian persons in the U.S, results in different consequences for their well-being. In this study, 82 Caucasian and Korean Protestants completed a religious/spiritual maturity interview; measures of multidimensional aspects of religiousness/spirituality; questions about their general psychological distress and symptoms of psychopathology; their health status; and psychological well-being. It was a central hypothesis of this study, well-supported by the responses of the participants, that religious and spiritual maturity appears to increase with age. Younger adults in this study were significantly less mature than older adults. Age differences were not large, given that younger adults did not differ from middle aged adults, and those in middle age did not differ significantly from older adults. Persons higher in religious/spiritual well-being tended to be better in all areas of well-being that they reported: relations with others, environmental mastery, self-acceptance, personal growth, and autonomy. Clearly, being more mature with respect to religion and spirituality strongly predicted individual well-being in many areas. Among Korean individuals in this study, there were similarities to the non-Koreans in age differences with respect to religious/spiritual maturity; maturity levels being higher among older Koreans than younger Koreans, as was true for non-Koreans. In addition, Koreans were not necessarily more involved in religious activities than Caucasians. This finding was contrary to expectation. The mean level of Korean level of involvement was higher, but the distribution of religious involvement for the two ethnic groups overlapped considerably. It was clearly the case that among the individuals included in this study, Koreans demonstrated no more religious commitment, daily spiritual experiences, religious support, religious/spiritual coping, private religious practices, and organizational religiousness than Caucasian participants. Nevertheless, the degree to which religion involved Koreans in this project exerted a strong effect on those individuals. Both religious involvement and religious/spiritual maturity had a significant, positive effect on Korean participants, predicting higher well-being, and lower levels of felt distress. Although the benefits of these aspects of religious life did not extend to physical well-being, the positive benefits were significant. Religion, specifically maturation in religious and spiritual thinking, and involvement in religious activities, had a strong, beneficial effect.