The results of this fall’s Student Relationship Assessment shows three major trends: a decrease in S cripture reading, increase in acceptance of cultural diversity and decrease in emotional self-control.
“This incoming class of students is reporting less time spent studying the Bible,” Derek Gwinn, director of relationship education, said.
Students who reported reading the Bible once a week or more has dropped by 13 percentage points in the past two years.
Similarly, the number of students reading other kinds of Christian literature has decreased by 25 percentage points.
This is surprising to Gwinn, as the 2016 incoming class reported a 13 percentage point increase in the number of students who say they are pursuing a more meaningful relationship with God.
“It’s an interesting find I wasn’t expecting to see,” Gwinn said. “This fall, they are just as committed as the last couple of years of incoming students, but where they are getting their spiritual growth seems to be different.”
Levi Branstetter, sophomore nursing student, said he was not surprised by the spiritual formation results.
“It’s getting more popular to put on a Christian front,” Branstetter said.
Josiah Coroama, sophomore youth ministry major, said he appreciated students’ honesty and that they were not ashamed to tell the truth even though they may be less committed to studying the Bible than some would expect.
Gwinn also reported a 13 percentage point increase in students cultivating relationships across ethnic lines over the past three years, from 40 percent to 53 percent. Gwinn said that because of the general shift in the culture, topics such as social diversity, social justice and inclusion have increased in popularity.
Macayah Ulrich, a senior psychology major, said she wasn’t surprised by this statistic and expressed her appreciation of the strong push for cultural diversity at the University.
“Coming here and experiencing all of the culture has been fun,” Ulrich said. “It’s been awesome learning about different people and the way they function.”
Lastly, Gwinn noted a surprisingly low confidence in emotional self-control, as the incoming students “overwhelmingly” reported room for improvement in self-control. Eighty-seven percent of students reported need for improvement in conflict engagement. Similarly, 62 percent reported need for improvement in conflict management.
“People avoid conflict, because they don’t like how they handle conflict, and they don’t like how they handle conflict because their emotions get out of control,” Gwinn said. “You get a cycle where one thing leads to the other.”
Coroama said he thinks that decrease in emotional self-control makes sense as confrontation often is an emotional experience.
“Almost 100 percent of the time the hardest part of conflict management is learning how to address it in a way that isn’t offensive,” Coroama said.
Ulrich said he believes the shift comes from the increased use of technology to communicate.
“You can say anything you want to a screen without seeing a reaction and it’s easier,” Ulrich said. “Whenever you’re in person, you don’t know how to handle yourself.”
Gwinn said this year’s results should be more accurate than those of previous years.
This year, the Center for Healthy Relationships rehauled their Student Relationship Assessment in order to calculate more accurate results from the test.
Gwinn said the change in the SRA questions came out of a need for conciseness.
“We wanted to make sure we were actually measuring what we thought we were measuring,” Gwinn said.
As Gwinn explained, John Brown University’s SRA questions have been the same for at least eight years. As culture is changing and updating, the language used in the questionnaire also needed to change. Thus, the questions were updated to receive more meaningful answers.
“We had to revise, simplify, and restructure,” Gwinn said. “Anybody who is doing psychological assessment development goes through these stages and it was time for us to do it again.”