A Culturally Sensitive Approach to the Relationships between Identity Formation and Religious Beliefs in Youth

  • Kazumi SugimuraEmail author
  • Kobo Matsushima
  • Shogo Hihara
  • Masami Takahashi
  • Elisabetta Crocetti
Empirical Research


Youth encounter issues of religion in the process of identity formation. However, most prior studies have focused on Christian youth in Western counties. This study examined the relationship between identity formation and religious beliefs in the Eastern national context where Buddhism and non-institutional folk religions are prevalent. Participants were 969 Japanese youth (51.3% female; Mage = 20.1). Both literal and symbolic religious beliefs were included and both a variable- and person-oriented approach were used based on the three-factor identity model. The results from the variable-oriented approach (i.e., identity processes) demonstrated that identity commitment was positively associated with literal religious beliefs, whereas reconsideration of commitment was positively associated with both literal and symbolic religious beliefs. Findings from the person-oriented approach (i.e., identity statuses) confirmed these results. Overall, this study highlights the importance of religious beliefs in the process of identity formation among youth in an Eastern national context.


Identity processes Identity statuses Religious beliefs Youth Japan Buddhism 



The authors thank Kazuhiro Miyashita and Aya Takahashi for their help with data collection, and Ryo Nishiwaki, Katsuya Sakai, and Wakaba Nishida for their various suggestions and research assistance for this study.

Authors’ Contributions

KS conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, and drafted the manuscript; KM and MT participated in its design and helped to draft the manuscript; SH performed the statistical analysis and helped to draft the manuscript; EC participated in the design of the study and coordination, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Kazumi Sugimura was supported by the JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C), 15K04070 and 18K03068.

Data Sharing and Declaration

This manuscript’s data will not be deposited. The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are not publicly available, but are available from the corresponding author upon a reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Graduate School of EducationHiroshima UniversityHiroshimaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Graduate School of Arts and SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyNortheastern Illinois UniversityChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyAlma Mater Studiorum University of BolognaBolognaItaly

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