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Stages or Lifespan? an Alternative Approach to Religious Development in Adulthood

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The investigation and interpretation of individualised and pluralised religious attitudes and behaviour has been at the top of the research agenda of practical theology for some decades. With regard to the description of religious development especially in childhood and adolescence, but also in adulthood, the stage theories by J.W. Fowler and F. Oser/P. Gmünder have played a prominent role. In current developmental psychology, the lifespan approach has been established as a new paradigm that conceives development as a lifelong and multidirectional process and particularly takes into account developmental processes in the higher and highest adulthood. We will discuss these developmental theories and present the lifespan approach as an additional – and even more comprehensive – theory for the description and understanding of religious biographies, taking up the results of the empirical theological research project "Religious development in adulthood" (cf. Fürst et al. [Eds.], 2003).

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