Religion is a central feature of human behaviour and thought that carries some unique properties
that are of relevance to psychological inquiry, and has effects on the psychosocial world of the individual
that are distinct, highly significant, and in certain areas considerably consistent.
A number of overlapping approaches have been put forward in an attempt to describe and define
religion. I argued that a definition should be testable, differentiating, wide enough, not ethnocentric, and
unbiased, while at the same time meaningful within the context for which it was developed. For this thesis,
religion was seen as the belief structures of the major formal systems of faith and the way these structures
are used by the believers at both the personal and the collective level. The capacity of the individual to utilise
these structures was termed religiosity or religiousness.
The foundations of the psychology of religion were reviewed along with the main challenges the
field has faced through the years leading to its present status. A literature review revealed that most
psychological studies on religion seem to have serious methodological limitations, such as inappropriate
sample types, little or no control over certain religious, psychological, or sociodemographic variables,
simplistic at times implementation of statistical techniques, and almost a total neglect of qualitative
methodologies. These limitations could have artificially reduced the strength of the association between
religion and the psychological variables, and inflated the levels of bias in the findings.
The presented investigation assessed the relationship between aspects of Christian faith and three
major psychological constructs, viz. personality, identity, and attachment. More specifically, the variables
of primary focus were: (1) religious orientation, and (2) schizotypal personality traits as defined by the DSMIV. Secondary variables that were treated as mediators were: (3) general personality traits, (4) aspects of
identity, and (5) adult attachment styles. Additionally, variables included were: Religious practices relating
to (6) church attendance and (7) prayer, (8) Christian denominations, (9) age, (10) gender, (11) social
desirability, and (12) sociodemographic characteristics. The relationship between mainly the primary and
secondary variables, with the central focus being on religiosity versus the rest, was considered from both
a theoretical and an empirical perspective. The result helped formulate the predictions to be tested, and
design of an integrated model to account for those relationships.
In the first quantitative questionnaire study, 161 adult Christians, all British residents, took part.
A non-probability purposive sampling was used. Participants were recruited from the undergraduate
programs of the University of Edinburgh, the psychology department volunteer panel, and through
individuals who served as intermediate contacts. Alongside descriptive questions, seven standardised
psychometric questionnaires were used measuring religiosity (I/E-R and RLI), personality (EPQ-R-S),
schizotypal traits (SPQ), identity (AIQ-IIIx), attachment (ECR), and desirable responding (BIDR-6).
Religiosity had a unique and complex effect on schizotypy that was as strong as that ofmainstream
psychological variables. The direction ofthis effect seemed to be determined by the interplay between the
religious and the psychological profiles of the individual. The psychological one was of a relatively
maladjusted individual, while the religious one was of an ordinary believer. The religious profile appeared
to decrease the intensity of schizotypal traits; the psychological one did the opposite. This result suggested
that religiosity on its own and in its "natural" state seems to enhance the well-being ofthe individual. It is
only through its interplay with certain kinds and degrees of other psychological elements that
psychopathology is born.
The second study used qualitative interviews to focus on the identification of conceptual themes
through the participants' religious discourse that directly related to the findings of the first study and the
general thesis aims. This study utilised semi-structured, open-ended, telephone interviews with a sample of
eight participants who had taken part in the first study, and selected through a process of theoretical
sampling. Fifteen main interview-items were developed that addressed issues ofreligious life, upbringing,
meaning, and practices. Interview transcripts were analysed through thematic analysis.
The findings suggested that the main elements of a mental health-enhancing religion revolve
around issues of a personal relationship with God, the degree in which religion is embedded in and provides
meaning to one's life, the levels and nature ofexistential questioning, and the distinction between religious
choice and inevitability.
Religion is a complex, multidimensional concept; psychologists need to be more informed about
its interactions with the individual's psychosocial world. For that to be possible, focussed and sophisticated
psychological research methodologies need to be developed that would produce coherent, interpretive, and