The principle investigator for this study grounded the construction of the LSPS in Latina/o theological perspectives, with the aim of developing a measurement instrument that was relevant for Latino populations. The LSPS demonstrated good internal consistency among the total sample, and there was a normal distribution of LSPS scores. Thus, the tool was free of ceiling effects (clustering of high scores), which is a common problem among spirituality and religiosity scales (Slater, Hall, & Edwards, 2003
The Latino students scored significantly higher than non-Latinos on both the SPS and the LSPS, supporting the first hypothesis. Those Latinos who more strongly identified with Latino cultural values, as measured by the OCIS, scored higher on the LSPS than Latinos with a weaker cultural identification, supporting the second hypothesis. The Latino students reported attending weekly church services three times more frequently and engaging in personal prayer outside church twice as frequently as the non-Latino students. Latinos also reported discussing spiritual or religious beliefs more often than the non-Latino group.
Because identification with Latino culture was a significant predictor of LSPS scores, we were interested in exploring how the two ethnic groups responded to individual LSPS items. As illustrates, there were significant differences between Latinos and non-Latinos in all but 4 of the 32 LSPS items. The largest differences in mean scores between Latinos and non-Latinos related to participants' relationship with God or other religiously significant figures, as well as items pertaining to traditional Latino cultural values, such as the integration of family and community with one's spiritual life. For example, LSPS items 4 and 5 (“I feel close to God/Higher Power” and “Talking every day with God/Higher Power is important to me”) were scored significantly higher by Latinos, as was LSPS 18 (“Doing something about injustice is an important part of my religion/spirituality”) and item 21 (“Helping my family is an important part of my spirituality”). Interestingly, there were no significant differences in scores between groups for LSPS items 19 and item 24, which pertained to a negative relationship with God (“I feel angry with God when something bad happens” and “God punishes me when I do something wrong”).
A key finding was that LSPS scores increased with Latino cultural identification and decreased with Anglo identification, as measured by the OCIS, suggesting that the LSPS was tapping into particular Latino cultural values. Construction of LSPS items were based on Latina/o theological perspectives, which highlight the close, intimate relationship many Latinos have with spiritually or religiously significant figures (such as God or Virgin Mary). An affectionate and loving relationship with these figures is often woven into the fabric of one's daily life, and is a relationship that may be just as vital (if not more so) as one's relationship with immediate and extended family members. The integration of a spiritual perspective into one's values is illustrated by significantly higher LSPS scores among Latinos for items 9, 30, and 32 (“My religion/spirituality guides me to do what is right,” “My religion/spirituality helps me get through bad times,” and “My religion/spirituality helps me to understand suffering in life,” respectively). Many of the items in the LSPS pertain to relationships in one form or another (spiritual, familial, communal), which may have a heightened significance within traditional Latino cultural values.
Findings from this study indicate that spirituality is important to this sample of Latino college students, which has potential implications for health and well-being. Other studies have found that the role of spirituality in the lives of adolescents and young adults may be a key factor in high-risk behaviors, such as substance use. Nationally representative surveys of U.S. adolescents found that integration within a religious congregation was inversely related to illicit drug use (Bartkowski & Xu, 2007
; Nonnemaker, McNeely, & Blum, 2003
), while frequency of private prayer had protective effects against cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use (Nonnemaker et al., 2003
). Knight et al. (2007)
examined relationships between spirituality and alcohol use among a sample of 305 ethnically diverse, mostly Christian adolescents. Nearly 80% reported attending church services in the past year. Although spirituality had a significant and negative association with alcohol use, in their multivariate model, only forgiveness was associated with less likelihood of alcohol use.
Religious activity may also have a role in the likelihood for engagement in sexual activity for some young adults. Church attendance was a determinant of delayed sexual activity among a national sample of high-risk adolescents, as long as the youth's friends attended the same congregation (Mott, Fondell, Kowaleski-Jones, & Menaghan, 1996
). Another national, longitudinal study of ethnically diverse 15–16-year-olds found that religiosity was associated with delayed first sexual intercourse (Hardy & Raffaelli, 2003
). The nature and extent of spiritual involvement among adolescents and young adults is a potentially important variable to consider when examining mental and physical well-being.
At a broader level, findings from the current study have implications for nursing and social science research projects that are related to conceptualization and measurement of spirituality among multiethnic groups. Although there is great utility in measurement tools that can be applied across cultures (the OCIS being a case in point), this approach necessitates that the construct being measured has equivalent meaning across cultural groups. Results from this study indicate that among Latinos, spirituality is a latent construct that has meanings and expressions specific to the cultural group context. Further research is needed in this area, since no other studies were found that explored the relationship between spirituality and cultural identification.
Additional testing of the LSPS will be conducted to assess the psychometric properties among a variety of Latino subgroups and among Spanish-speaking Latino populations. Even though a sizable portion of the sample in the present study was bilingual, testing the scale exclusively in English presents a limitation. In addition, the 32-item LSPS may be unwieldy for use among some populations, such as in health care research focusing on severely ill samples who may fatigue easily. The role of religious affiliation also needs further examination. While results demonstrated that identification as Catholic had an independent effect on LSPS scores, the comparison groups between Latino Catholics and non-Catholics were small. Replicating this finding among a larger and more representative sample of Latinos would further validate the cultural relevancy of the LSPS beyond Catholic religiosity.