October 18, 2023

Measuring Spirituality Among Adolescents

Pamela King and team test the psychological viability of the MDAS scale among diverse youth.

Project Dates

January 2017—Present

Thrive Research Team

Principal Investigator: Pamela Ebstyne King

Postdoctoral Research Associate: Susan Mangan

Student Researcher: Abbey Craigg

Project Overview

From a relational developmental systems meta-theoretical perspective, human development occurs through the ongoing interactions between a person and the many different environments or systems in which they live. Spiritual development is no exception.

The Measure of Diverse Adolescent Spirituality (MDAS) Scale was developed in order to measure a young person’s experience of their understanding of transcendence and their response attitudinal and behavioral response to it. From this perspective, spirituality is not just a feeling or experience of something beyond the self, but spirituality involves one’s process of making meaning, informing one’s sense of self and their worldviews, and motivates actions and behaviors that are aligned with their spiritual ideals.

Specifically, the MDAS is comprised of three subscales, including Transcendence, Fidelity, and Action. Although the MDAS was developed as a multidimensional measure of adolescent spirituality for use with diverse youth, including those who self-identify as spiritual outside of a religious tradition, it has been used mostly in Christian populations in the U.S., Mexico, El Salvador, and Rwanda.1

While there are many different measures that examine spirituality, the MDAS is particularly well-suited to assess spirituality in an emerging population because of the developmental tasks that emerging adults engage in. In a previous study, we found that a highly religious emerging adult population endorsed themes of Transcendence– Sacred, Transcendence– Other, Self-Awareness and Contribution.2 In this current study, we will test the psychological viability of the MDAS in a diverse emerging adult population.

For any questions regarding the items and modification process for contextualizing the MDAS for culturally and spiritually diverse samples, please contact Dr. Pamela King at pamking@fuller.edu.


1. King, P.E., Yoo, Y., & Vaughn, J.M.* (in press). Under construction: Refined findings of the Measure of Diverse Adolescent Spirituality (MDAS) among Latino youth in Mexico and El Salvador. In K. Harris, A. Ai., & P. Wink (Eds.), Assessing spirituality and religion in a diversified world. New York: Springer Press.

2. Craigg, A. L. (2019). A factor analysis of the Measure of Diverse Adolescent Spirituality in emerging adults. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Fuller Theological Seminary School of Psychology, Pasadena, CA.

Related Publications

  • King, P. E., Yoo, Y., & Vaughn, J. M., Tirrell, J. M., Geldhof, G. J., & Dowling, E. M. (2021). The Measure of Diverse Adolescent Spirituality (MDAS) and refined findings from Mexican and Salvadoran youth. In K. Harris, A. Ai, & P. Wink (Eds.), Assessing Spirituality and Religion in a Diverse World. New York: Springer Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-52140-0_16
  • King, P.E., Yoo, Y., Vaughn, J.M., Tirrell, J.M., Geldhof, G.J., Iraheta, G., Williams, K., Sim, A. Stephenson, P., Dowling, E.M., Lerner, R.M., & Lerner, J.V. Evaluating the Measure of Diverse Adolescent Spirituality in samples of Mexican and Salvadoran youth. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 13(2), 246-253. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000279
  • Tirrell, J. M., Geldhof, G. J., King, P. E., Dowling, E., Sim, A., Williams, K., Iraheta, G., Lerner, J. V., & Lerner, R. M. (2018). Measuring spirituality, hope, and thriving among Salvadoran youth: Initial findings from the Compassion International Study of Positive Youth Development. Child & Youth Care Forum, 48(2), 241-268. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-018-9454-1
  • King, P. E., Kim, S., Furrow, J. F., & Clardy, C. E. (2017). Preliminary exploration of the Measurement of Diverse Adolescent Spirituality (MDAS) among Mexican youth. Applied Developmental Science, 21(4), 235-250. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2016.1203789


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