Psychology of Religion and Religious Education

Spirituality / New Forms of Religion

The religious fields in Germany and the U.S.A. are constantly changing. Thus monitoring new forms of religiosity is a continuous task. "Spirituality" has increasingly become popular as self-identification - indicating new forms of contemporary lived religion or religious quest. While in the U.S.A., the preferences for "spiritual" self-identification are monitored for quite some time, we were among the first in Germany to document the considerable number of people who self-identify as "more spiritual than religious" (Streib, 2005; 2008; Streib et al., 2009). It is interesting that preferences for "spirituality" double for deconverts in Germany and in the U.S.A.. This deserves more attention in research. Our current research on the semantics of "spirituality" is a comparative study with German and US respondents and has its focus of the semantics of "spirituality" in relation to a variety of other self-identification; it also relates "spiritual" self-identification to a variety of psychometric variables. In this research, we also conduct personal interviews including an experiment (IAT) with focus on the semantics of "spirituality."

Deconversion & Fundamentalist Biographies

The main project in this area was the Bielefeld-Based Cross-Cultural Study of Deconversion which has focused on deconversions from a variety of religious affiliations in the U.S.A. and Germany - from all kinds of religious traditions and organizations, including mainstream religious organizations and churches, as well as, new religious and fundamentalist groups. The team of researchers had an international and interdisciplinary profile and included psychologists, sociologists, and theologians. In the years from 2002 to 2005, a total of 1,197 research participants have been interviewed. The core of the study are almost one hundred deconversion narratives (50% from U.S.A. and 50% Germany). Results are published in a book (Streib, Hood et al., 2009). This project has researched in transatlantic comparison and in much greater detail what has begun as study of Christian-fundamentalist biographies for the Enquete Commission on "So-called Sects and Psychogroups" of the 13th German Parliament in 1998.

Religious Styles and Schemata: Faith Development Theory Revisited

This research focus derives from H. Streib's theoretical and methodological work with James W. Fowler's faith development theory - which began with Streib's dissertation project and his work in the Center for Faith and Moral Development at Emory University, Atlanta. This research area has three aspects: theory revision, documentation of faith development research worldwide and evaluation and instrument development. In completed, ongoing and future empirical research projects in our Research Center at Bielefeld University, faith development interviews and the Religious Schema Scale (RSS) have been - and will be - included as instruments.

Inter-Religious Learning: Development of Xenosophia

Cultural and religious differences are an increasingly urgent theme in Western societies. Inter-religious learning in the classroom is an important focus of religious education researchOne of the key question is the encounter with the alien, the reaction to the strange religion. Children, adolescents and adults (may) use different styles in this encounter. Instead of ignoring difference, the strange can have a creative impact. This is expressed by the term - and the schema - of "xenosophia" (the wisdom in the encounter with the strange). As methodological innovation, we (C. Klein; H. Streib) have developed and successfully tested an experiment, the Abrahamitic Religions Xenophobia Test (ARXT).

Religious Socialization of Turkish-Islamic Immigrants

While in the Turkish-Muslim immigrant population in Germanya third and fourth generation is emerging, there is not enough research about the (continuously changing) religious praxis and socialization in these milieus. Dissertations of doctoral students from Turkey respond to these desiderata : The religious socialization and faith development of adolescents in cross-cultural comparison between Turkey and Germany has been the research focus of the dissertation project of Adem Aygün which has been completed in 2010. A study on the similarities and differences in religiosity and faith development between three generations in Turkish-Islamic immigrant families is the dissertation project of Sakin Özisik. The religiosity of Turkish-Islamic and Christian homosexuals is the focus in the dissertation research of Zuhal Agilkaya.

Adolescents and Religion

Taking up the thread of previous research and writing on life-style and religion, religion in adolescence has become a new research focus in our Research Center. An online-questionnaire "Youth & Religion" was anwered by more than 400 adolescents in 2009. Results have been published in a book in German (Streib & Gennerich, 2011). Interesting are especially the results on the predictive effect of religious cognition on xenophobia and conflict behavior. Also C. Gennerich's (2010) habilitation research which results in a profound analysis of theological preferences of adolescents in the framework of values has been completed in Bielefeld.

Children‘s Religious Drawings

Previous empirical research on children's drawings are unsatisfactory, because they are based on final products only and ignore the drawing process. Thus there was little attention to the child's subjectivity and creativity. Also, a narrow developmental perspective is dominant, which narrows its focus on the contrast between the anthropomorphic vs. symbolic character of the God representation. In our research projects we started to explore new ways with video-taped drawing processes. A pilot study (Children's Religious Drawings), had been continued by Manuela Wiedmaier in a comprehensive dissertation project, in which almost 60 children have been videotaped and analyzed when they drew in pairs or small groups a picture of God. Results have appeared in Wiedmeier's (2010) book. In her dissertation research, Patricia Meise is continuing this research in a longitudinal design.

Mediation / Conflict Management

Conflict management plays an increasingly important role in schools. In our research, we engage in a project studying the need for mediation programs in schools and the readiness of students to participate in them. This research relates mediation to a vaiety of other factors including personality, religion, attitudes and values. In our teaching, we respond to the situation in the schools with courses and workshops which include mediation training. A team of students has produced a video about mediation.