Exploring Spirituality and Mechanisms Affecting Mental Health Outcomes: An Examination of Youth in Foster Care
Makanui, Paul Kalani
University of Kansas
Clinical Child Psychology
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The effects of spirituality and youth relationships with others on internalizing, externalizing, and adaptive outcomes were examined in a sample of 159 youth between the ages of 8 and 21 in foster or residential care. A data-driven approach was utilized to determine if, commensurate with extant theory, spiritual beliefs in youth are best represented by proximal (internal) and distal (external) domains. Results indicated the existence of two distinct factors, specifically spirituality and relationships with others, within the present sample. Indirect effects of direct coping and perceived social support on the relations between these factors and youth outcomes were also examined. Preliminary analyses indicated a significant relation between youth spirituality and adaptive outcomes, with a significant indirect effect of perceived social support on these relations. However, these relations were nonsignificant when accounting for youth relationships with others. Final results indicated that youth relationships with others significantly affected youth adaptive functioning through both coping and perceived social support. Youth relationships also significantly affected youth internalizing symptoms, albeit only through youths' perceived levels of social support. Youths' coping also emerged as an indirect link between relationships with others and adult-reported adaptive skills, although coping did not significantly affect the direct relation between the two. All other relations emerged as nonsignificant within the final models. These findings suggest that, while spiritual beliefs are potentially an important factor in affecting outcomes for foster youth, the strongest effects likely occur through youths' relationships with others, social support, and coping in relation to adaptive outcomes for these youth.
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