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Fowler's Faith Stage Theory

 

Explanations > Learning Theory > Fowler's Faith Stage Theory

 

James Fowler investigated and developed a stage theory for the development of religious faith. In practice, it is also applicable to other areas of general beliefs.

Kirst-Ashman and Zastrow (2004) add a 'Primal or Undifferentiated' stage prior to stage 1. This includes Lacan's early stages and entry into the Symbolic Register.

It is perhaps an interesting hypothesis as to whether faith exists or is more pure in Lacan's pre-lingual, pre-mirror phase stage of the Real.

 

Level ~Ages Name Characteristics
Stage 1 3-7 Intuitive-predictive Egocentric, becoming aware of time. Forming images that will affect their later life.
Stage 2 6-12 Mythical-literal Aware of the stories and beliefs of the local community. Using these to give sense to their experiences.
Stage 3 12- Synthetic-conventional Extending faith beyond the family and using this as a vehicle for creating a sense of identity and values.
Stage 4 early adult Individuative-reflective The sense of identity and outlook on the world are differentiated and the person develops explicit systems of meaning.
Stage 5 adult Conjunctive The person faces up to the paradoxes of experience and begins to develop universal ideas and becomes more oriented towards other people.
Stage 6 adult Universalizing The person becomes totally altruistic and they feel an integral part of an all-inclusive sense of being. This stage is rarely achieved.

So what?

When working with people's beliefs and especially those around religion, take account of where they are. Of course, you should listen carefully and test for their stage before taking further action.

See also

Preferences, Beliefs, Identity, Values

 

Fowler, J. (1971).  Stages of Faith, Harper and Row, San Francisco

Kirst-Ashman, K.K. and Zastrow, C. (2004). Understanding human behavior and the social environment (Sixth ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole—Thomson

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