Cognitive & Affective Components of

Religious & Spiritual Beliefs

March 20, 2019  |  Baltimore, Maryland

9:30am - 5:00pm

Baltimore Convention Center - Room 329

This preconference convenes the community of scholars interested in the nature and function of religion and spirituality in child and adolescent development. The preconference is designed to engage attendees in discussions on the theoretical and empirical examination of religion and spirituality and to highlight cutting-edge research in these areas. We explore how to conceptualize and operationalize religion as a context in which human development occurs; and we seek to delineate the mechanisms through which spirituality and religious cognitions and beliefs develop. As such, this preconference will encourage scholars to consider how religious and spiritual development can inform traditional assumptions and approaches to understanding developmental processes, both for established scholars in this area of work and for scholars interested in engaging in these discussions for the first time.  The organizers build the program to incorporate diversity in the religious beliefs and cultural systems represented and discussed. In addition, a broad scope of human development is considered, with scholars examining interacting domains of development (socioemotional, cognitive, psychopathology) and varying domains of religious and spiritual development (concepts, cognitive processes, moral development, character development, identity, parenting).


The theme of the 2019 Preconference will be Cognitive & Affective Components of

Religious & Spiritual Beliefs. Invited presentations include:

Chris J. Boyatzis, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Bucknell University

 Religion and death in the family:  Quantitative and qualitative insights


What is religion’s role in how parents and children discuss a death in the family?  This talk will offer data from several studies with different methods—surveys, in-depth interviews, and quasi-structured direct observation—to study parent-child communication about a family death.  We will learn about structural and process aspects about that communication, how parent psychological and religious variables predict such communication and child well-being, and how such communication can serve different psychological functions for children and parents.



Sam Hardy, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, Brigham Young University

 Relations between religious and spiritual development, moral development, and identity formation in adolescence


Religious/spiritual development, moral development, and identity formation seem deeply interconnected given that they all deal with sources of meaning.  Yet little research has examined the nexuses of these three developmental processes.  This presentation will review relevant theory and research and point to future directions. 



Annette Mahoney, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Bowling Green University

Do spiritual struggles over pregnancy undermine parental psychospiritual well-being across the transition to parenthood?


Although higher religious attendance prior to childbirth has been tied to greater intentions and odds of becoming a mother as well as related to lower prenatal maternal anxiety and depression, this presentation will illustrate the need for social scientists and practitioners to be sensitive to spiritual struggles that mothers and fathers may experience with divine figures or religious communities about becoming a parent.  Such struggles may undermine parents’ psychospiritual well-being in adjusting to the transition to parenthood.  Such difficulties could, in turn, interfere with parents’ later efforts to transmit their religious beliefs and practices to their children.



Jacqui Woolley, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin

Children’s Beliefs about God, Reality, and Randomness


I will discuss the causes and consequences of children’s beliefs about God’s involvement in events in the world.  I will show that children use God’s involvement in an event to judge the event’s reality status.  I will also report new findings indicating that children’s perceptions of control predict both their use of God to explain events and their endorsement of superstitious causes.  Results also show that family religiosity affects reasoning about religious events but not reasoning about fantastical or superstitious events.

In addition to these invited presentations, the preconference will feature a variety of formats, including round-table discussions, poster presentations, and data talks in order to foster discussion, build research networks, and connect younger and more established scholars to each other. Thanks to generous donations from The John Templeton Foundation and the Thrive Center at Fuller Theological Seminary, this preconference is FREE for attendees. To encourage networking and discussion, attendees receive a breakfast, lunch and other refreshments throughout the day. SRCD attendees whose work addresses any of the above topics or who simply wish to learn more about religious and spiritual development are invited to attend.