Prosocial behavior as a moderator of the relationship between spirituality and subjective well-being

Thalia Komninos, Fordham University


Previous research has shown that religiousness/spirituality and prosocial behavior (defined here as helping behavior) are related to various dimensions of well-being; however, there is still much to learn about the particular associations, and especially about the underlying mechanisms. It was hypothesized that prosocial behavior would be a moderator of the relationship between spirituality and subjective well-being, based upon a few recent findings providing evidence of an interaction between religious involvement and prosocial behavior, and bolstered by the observation of ideological-practical and phenomenological-ontological links between religion/spirituality and prosocial behavior. In other words, the relationship between spirituality and subjective well-being would be stronger for people who are more prosocial due to an expected synergistic effect when the self-transcendence and other-centered orientation experienced in everyday prosocial behaviors complement spirituality's larger self-transcendence and fundamental orientation toward the sacred, divine, or ultimate other. The sample consisted of 135 undergraduates at a Catholic university in a metropolitan area (82 females and 53 males ranging from 18 to 23 years of age). Measures included the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES), the Spiritual Transcendence Scale (STS), the Prosocial Behavior Inventory (PBI), the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS), the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), and a demographic questionnaire. Findings showed that spirituality was related to life satisfaction and positive affect, and prosocial behavior was related to positive affect in correlational and regression analyses. Contrary to study hypotheses, there were no significant associations with negative affect. The moderator hypotheses were tested using interaction terms (spirituality x prosocial behavior) as the last step in hierarchical regressions. If the interaction terms accounted for significant additional variance in the criterion variables, a moderator effect would be suggested. However, results showed that prosocial behavior failed to moderate the relationship between spirituality subjective well-being. Limitations of the study are noted, and alternative mechanisms linking the variables are suggested. The role of spirituality and the role of religious socialization are considered and contrasted.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Spirituality

Recommended Citation

Komninos, Thalia, "Prosocial behavior as a moderator of the relationship between spirituality and subjective well-being" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3377048.