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Religiousness, Spiritual Seeking, and Personality: Findings from a Longitudinal Study


  • The writing of this article was supported by grant #10406 awarded by the John Templeton Foundation to Paul Wink and Michele Dillon. We would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

concerning this article should be addressed to Paul Wink, Department of Psychology, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA 02481-8203; E-mail:


ABSTRACT The hypothesis that personality characteristics in adolescence can be used to predict religiousness and spiritual seeking in late adulthood was tested using a structural equation modeling framework to estimate cross-lagged and autoregressive effects in a two-wave panel design. The sample consisted of 209 men and women participants in the Berkeley Guidance and Oakland Growth studies. In late adulthood, religiousness was positively related to Conscientiousness and Agreeableness, and spiritual seeking was related to Openness to Experience. Longitudinal models indicated that Conscientiousness in adolescence significantly predicted religiousness in late adulthood above and beyond adolescent religiousness. Similarly, Openness in adolescence predicted spiritual seeking in late adulthood. The converse effect, adolescent religiousness to personality in late adulthood, was not significant in either model. Among women, adolescent Agreeableness predicted late-life religiousness and adolescent religiousness predicted late-life Agreeableness; both these effects were absent among men. Adolescent personality appears to shape late-life religiousness and spiritual seeking independent of early religious socialization.