Social Science

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Recent national surveys show that older youth who have experienced parental divorce tend to disengage from organized religion but feel as close to God as peers from intact families. In this paper, we offer a conceptual model and concrete guidelines to help adults engage in sensitive, yet direct, dialogues with older youth about the spiritual dimensions of parental divorce. Based on a recent line of empirical research on the role of religion and spirituality for post-divorce adjustment, we argue that parental divorce can be experienced as a spiritual trauma where the event is interpreted as a sacred loss and desecration, and can also trigger painful spiritual struggles. Yet youth can also draw upon adaptive religious/spiritual methods to cope with the transition. We illustrate these psychospiritual processes using quotes from a study of college students who had experienced a parental divorce within the prior five years. We end with a list of questions that parents, pastoral counselors, clergy, and mental health professionals can draw upon to explore the intersection of faith and divorce with adolescents.

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Counselling and Spirituality

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