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Comparing Oser's and Fowler's Developmental Stages

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The development of religious judgment according to Oser's theory and the development of faith according to Fowler were compared in this article on the basis of studies made among Finnish young adults (age 19-35, N=40) and adults (age 45-62, N=40). Development of religious judgment was studied also among a group (40) of 15 to 18 year-old adolescents. The developmental lines of these measures differed in some degree from each other. In the adult group development towards higher stages was more prevalent by Fowler's measure than by Oser's. Age and various life experiences have clearly more influence on Fowler's stages than on those of Oser. A very important factor for both developmental lines but especially for the development of religious judgment was education. In fact, after the age of 45-52 development continued only among highly educated persons. As for Oser's stages, the third was problematic also in this study because of its extent and diffuseness. It was the shelter of both young 'atheists' and older committed believers. No remarkable differences were in this study found between women and men. Also religiousness, i.e. religious and congregational activity and Christian beliefs, was measured. Religiously committed persons were placed quite evenly in both Oser's and Fowler's different stages. At Oser fourth stage religious judgment seemed to succeed, perhaps because dealing with problems of the kind treated in these dilemmas gives experience. Among other things, this empirical study raises again the question, what is actually the relationship of traditional religiousness with Oser's religious judgment and Fowlerian faith.

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