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Agentic and Receptive Hope: Understanding Hope in the Context of Religiousness and Spirituality through the Narratives of Salvadoran Youth

Jennifer Medina Vaughn
Pamela Ebstyne King
Susan Mangan
Sean Noe
Samuel Hay
Bridget O’Neil
Jonathan M. Tirrell
Elizabeth M. Dowling
Guillermo Alfredo Iraheta Majano
5 and
Alistair Thomas Rigg Sim
Graduate School of Education and Psychology, Pepperdine University, Los Angeles, CA 90045, USA
Thrive Center for Human Development, Fuller Theological Seminary, 135 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91182, USA
Woods College of Advancing Studies, Boston College, 1400 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA
Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University, 419 Boston Avenue, Medford, MA 02155, USA
Compassion International, 12290 Voyager Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO 80921, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Religions 2022, 13(4), 376;
Submission received: 29 January 2022 / Revised: 12 April 2022 / Accepted: 13 April 2022 / Published: 18 April 2022


Hope contributes to positive development in adolescents, and religious and spiritual contexts may be particularly important for developing and supporting hope. However, extant literature on hope, religion, and spirituality neglects their synergistic relation, leaving questions about how they work together to support development. In this study, we explore how religiousness and spirituality (R/S) inform hope by identifying unique synergies that might be particularly useful in difficult contexts. Multilevel qualitative content analyses of interviews conducted with 18 thriving Salvadoran adolescents (50% female, Mage = 16.39 years, SD = 1.83) involved in a faith-based program provided evidence that the ideological and relational resources associated with R/S informed these adolescents’ agentic and receptive hopes. Agentic hopes, identified through expressed hopeful future expectations, revealed that adolescents held beyond-the-self hopes focused on benefiting three distinct targets: God, community, and family. Youth also described “sanctified hopes”, which were hopes focused on fulfilling God’s purposes directly and indirectly. Analyses of receptive hopes, which consider how hope is shaped and empowered by context, revealed that for these youth, hope was experienced in seven key contexts: self, caring adult relationships, family, God, youth development sponsor, social activities, and peers. Implications for fostering hope in R/S contexts within low-to-middle-income countries are discussed.

1. Introduction

1.1. Agentic and Receptive Hope: Understanding Hope in the Context of Spirituality through the Narratives of Salvadoran Youth

Research suggests that hope serves a protective and promotive function for adolescents in adversity by enhancing their beliefs in their coping capabilities and by orienting them toward positive imagined futures (Callina et al. 2014; Carretta et al. 2014). Religious and spiritual contexts may be particularly important in developing a young person’s sense of hope, given the ideological resources and relationships they offer (Huuskes et al. 2016; King et al. 2020a). In addition, hope, religion, and spirituality contribute to known indicators of positive development in adolescence, including thriving and well-being (e.g., Gooden and McMahon 2016; Hardy and King 2019; Kirby et al. 2021; Merolla et al. 2021).
Throughout the literature, religiousness and spirituality are conceptualized and operationalized in many different ways. We define religiousness as an individual’s psychological capacities to participate in the doctrines, practices, rituals, and communities associated with religious traditions (King and Boyatzis 2015). Spirituality involves the psychological capacities necessary for experiencing and responding to one’s perceptions of transcendence that may occur within religion (King et al. 2020a). Given that the youth in this study are embedded in a faith-based program that engages both religiousness and spirituality (R/S), our focus is less on distinguishing between the two, but rather to unpack the relation between R/S and hope. Consequently, we treat R/S as multidimensional and overlapping constructs that both describe people’s capacity to engage in their perception of transcendence and the beliefs, practices, and the communities surrounding them.
Although empirical research has attempted to map the association between hope and R/S as they relate to various outcomes such as positive coping and prosocial behavior, the findings are mixed, suggesting both moderating (DiPerro et al. 2018) and mediating relations (Rose et al. 2018). Though these initial studies exploring hope and R/S contribute valuable information, researchers are still left to wonder: how do these two constructs work together?
This question is key because understanding the links between hope and R/S may help provide insights for supporting positive youth development, particularly in the context of adversity. The experience of adversity, including poverty and gang violence, can contribute to distress in adolescents that exceeds their abilities to cope effectively (Butcher et al. 2015). Nonetheless, there is much research that indicates that adolescents exhibit positive development even amidst adversity (e.g., Consoli et al. 2015). This appears partly dependent on the promotive and protective factors available at different ecological levels (Toi et al. 2013). For example, at the individual level, ethnic identity can be promotive, while at the relational level, positive relationshps with adults can contribute to coping in adversity (Zimmerman et al. 2013). In cases of adversity, hope and R/S may work together to contribute to resilience and thriving. Within psychology, resilience involves the capacity to adapt and return to normalcy in the face of adversity (Riley and Masten 2005), and thriving is the process of adaptive development that occurs when youth strengths and contextual assets align in ways that youth may contribute beyond the self and may occur in both high risk and supportive environments (King et al. 2011; Lerner et al. 2003).
Hope researchers suggest that hope is shaped by context (Snow 2018), with faith-based contexts being particularly influential (Bernardo 2010). However, predominant definitions and studies of hope emphasize agentic hope—a unidimensional definition of hope that emphasizes personal agency and overlooks the influence of context. Recognizing that hope is embedded in an ecological context, Snow (2018) identifies that hope has a receptive component whose experience is shaped and empowered by context. To identify how being embedded in a faith-based yet adverse context informs agentic and receptive hope, we conducted and analyzed in-depth qualitative interviews with a group of thriving exemplars in El Salvador involved in a faith-based context and nominated for thriving, which included being hopeful and committed to their faith. We hypothesize that R/S offer ideological (beliefs) and relational resources to support the development of hope, and that R/S and the development of hope are linked in an agenctic and also a receptive manner. We report the specific findings here to develop a deeper understanding of the processes in which hope develops in adolescents within their contexts.

1.2. Hope in Context

Different conceptual approaches to hope in the psychological literature have been organized into focusing on agency or receptivity (Snow 2018). Dominant theories of hope are those which emphasize agentic hope—a desire for a given hopeful end result and one’s belief in its attainability (Callina et al. 2014; Gallagher and Lopez 2017; Snyder et al. 2002). Viewed this way, hope orients youth toward their imagined futures, shaping behaviors, choices, and relational interactions accordingly. A young person’s hopeful future expectations (HFE), or what they hope for, may be oriented toward the self (e.g., I want to become a teacher) or others (e.g., I want my family to be financially secure). When aligned with prosocial contexts, adolescent HFE may extend further beyond future self expectations toward future expectations that benefit others such as their families or communities. In some cases, even when the expressed hope is self-focused (e.g., I want to have a good job…), it may serve a beyond-the-self purpose (e.g., …to take my family out of poverty). Other-oriented and culturally-valued contributions such as these have been identified as indicators of positive development (Bundick et al. 2010; King and Mangan 2021; Lerner et al. 2003).
Though useful, agentic theories of hope highlight only one of hope’s facets—that of a personal agentic desire or belief and, in some cases, subsequent behavior. This unidimensional understanding of hope is inconsistent with relational developmental systems-based models of human development which emphasize mutually influential relations between the developing individual and the varying contexts in which the individual is embedded (Overton 2015). Strictly agentic conceptualizations of hope neglect the bidirectional interactions between “hopers” and their contexts, namely the way context informs the understanding and experience of hope as well as hoped for ends, or “hopes” themselves. For example, informed by a faith-based context, youth may experience hope as informed and sustained by their belief in God and likewise endorse hopes that are consistent with what they believe is “God’s plan” for them (e.g., spreading the gospel). At the same time, hope may act as an important motivator that encourages youth to capitalize on social resources in their context and encourage prosocial contribution (Callina et al. 2017). Recognizing that hope is embedded in an ecological context, Snow (2018) identified that hope has not only an agentic quality but also a receptive component.
Receptivity theories of hope suggest that hope is a socially influenced virtue that is shaped by one’s context and helps to empower agentic hope (Snow 2018). Hope is rarely experienced in isolation is experienced because of and through others. Receptivity approaches highlight cognitive appraisals that point to the socially embedded experience of hope. For example, people may find hope in family or God. The embedded nature of hope is clarified through relational developmental system (RDS) models of human development (Lerner et al. 2015) that emphasize mutually influential relations between the developing individual and the existing relationships, beliefs, and norms surrounding them (Overton 2015). Existing conceptualizations of hope, such as that of receptive hope, readily lend themselves to RDS-based framing with a focus on person ← → context relations that acknowledge that hope is experienced relationally. Research demonstrates that supportive relationships and contexts offer resources that inform and nurture hope (Callina et al. 2017; Stoddard et al. 2011) and may shape the way youth experience hope (Bernardo 2010; Snow 2018). Likewise, these social relationships and contexts, including religious, spiritual, and cultural contexts, influence and are influenced by one another (Abo-Zena and King 2021). This suggests that rather than existing in isolation, hope is informed by and experienced within multiple, interacting social contexts. Clarifying the contextual embeddedness of hope further, Bernardo (2010) posits that hope has external subdimensions, termed “loci,” that convey the meaning assigned to hope, contribute to agency, and sustain hope in moments of struggle. The three loci of hope identified as particularly influential are family, peers, and supernatural or spiritual beings (Bernardo 2010). Because receptive hope is received from or inspired by sources outside the self, this form of hope may persist in otherwise hopeless situations where personal agency is restricted (e.g., conditions of resource deficiency). Recognizing the ideological and relational resources present in religious contexts in particular, we are interested in understanding how being embedded in a religious context informs both agentic and receptive hope.

1.3. Religiousness/Spirituality as Context

Research demonstrates that religious contexts are fertile ground for developing virtues like hope (King et al. 2020b; Schnitker et al. 2019). R/S can be predictive of hope (Marques et al. 2013) and can work with hope to promote positive development (Rose et al. 2018). However, dominated by studies of agentic hope, the potential ways that R/S may inform hope remain unknown, providing no information about how hope and R/S work together and promote positive adolescent development.
Theoretically, R/S influence hope by providing a belief system, relationships, and transcendent practices which shape and sustain hope (King et al. 2020a). R/S offer beliefs about sources of hope beyond the self (e.g., God, the universe, the transcendent). For example, informed by R/S, hope may be understood as having an attitude of patient expectation wherein one waits on God and seeks out wise counsel from faith leaders (Snow 2018). At the same time, prosocial, moral, and spiritual narratives common in religious contexts may orient or support hopeful future expectations that are for the benefit of others (e.g., toward family, community, and humanity; King 2008; King et al. 2011). These beyond-the-self hopes motivate prosocial behavior that is indicative of thriving. Research well documents that adolescent spirituality is associated with a sense of commitment to and responsibility for others (King et al. 2014; Hardy and King 2019). In the present study, we posit that when youth are embedded in a spiritual context, transcendent beliefs inform their experience of hope.
Religious contexts also provide relationships that teach youth about hope, model hope amidst adversity, and provide practical support and mentorship to address barriers to hope (DuBois and Silverthorn 2005; Liang and Ketcham 2017). Empirically, social connections and spirituality are positively associated with hope (King et al. 2020b). These spiritually-based relationships offer youth spaces to talk about their experiences, receive guidance, and build social support in a manner that is consistent with their beliefs. Conversations about transcendence with supportive and caring adults can facilitate meaning-making and beyond-the-self goals (King et al. 2011; Riveros and Immordino-Yang 2021). For example, a young person who is feeling discouraged may find their hope renewed through discussions about trusting God and encouragement to engage in spiritual coping strategies that align with their transcendent narrative identity. Finally, the caring and mentoring relationships may encourage prosocial behavior by modeling and encouraging behavioral patterns that sustain hope while simultaneously steering young people away from maladaptive behaviors (DuBois and Silverthorn 2005; Haddad et al. 2011; Miranda-Chan et al. 2016). Thus, relationships created and nurtured in religious contexts can inform and bolster hope. While the discussion above indicates a positive relationship between R/S and hope, we recognize that this is not always the case. Some religious contexts do not support hope, particularly contexts in which conformity and fear dominate, but generally, R/S appear to be positively related to the development of hope.

1.4. Faith-Based Youth Programs and Thriving Exemplars

Hope is especially poignant in the context of adversity. Consequently, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where youth may be marginalized by issues related to poverty and concerns about safety and violence, are an important context for studying hope (see YouthPower Learning 2017; Rojas-Flores et al. 2013). Although exposure to adversity differs across regions and communities, many Salvadoran adolescents face multiple stressors, including high risk of adolescent homicide (UNICEF 2017) and poverty, that could reasonably be expected to impede hope, spirituality, and indicators of positive development. However, R/S in El Salvador remain deeply integrated with cultural expression (De la Torre et al. 2014) and are regularly cited as key resources for adolescents. While we recognize variations in faith traditions, religious expression, and engagement in a religious community, important elements of R/S in El Salvador which may contribute to hope, R/S, and resilience in Salvadoran adolescents include attending church services, prayer, relationships with clergy, and faith healing practices (Christian et al. 2015). In addition, some adolescents may endorse cultural values such as familismo, which involves loyalty and solidarity to one’s family, and collectivismo, which is characterized by empathy and concern for the in-group, prioritizes social relationships and has been identified as protective for adolescents in adverse contexts (e.g., Salas-Wright et al. 2014; Springer et al. 2006). Nonetheless, it is important to consider that there may be meaningful differences in the level of endorsement and internalization of these values, even within traditionally collectivistic Salvadoran families. Describing how R/S and the relationships offered within religious contexts inform hope in adolescents in this LMIC may provide insights for supporting positive youth development in the context of adversity (King et al. 2020b).
In LMICs, religious contexts are particularly helpful in providing meaning for hope (e.g., Erikson 1968; Krause and Pargament 2018), as well as the above-noted resources, such as practical support and mentorship, offered in such settings. Youth development programs seeking to promote positive youth development (PYD) in cases of extreme need in LMICs are frequently offered through congregational settings and faith-based organizations, such as the programs of Compassion International (CI) (see Sim and Peters 2014; Tirrell et al. 2019). Involvement in faith-based programming administered in community-based congregational settings embeds youth in a spiritually-rich ideological and relational context wherein spirituality is emphasized and youth are intentionally connected to caring adults (King et al. 2019; Sim and Peters 2014; Tirrell et al. 2019).
Exemplar methodology is a well-established means of gaining rich descriptions of understudied concepts (Bronk et al. 2013; King et al. 2014) such as the means through which R/S informs hope. Consistent with exemplar methodology, the youth in this study are treated as experts, acknowledging cultural nuances and allowing youth to describe phenomena based on personal experience and understanding (Bronk et al. 2013; King et al. 2013). The youth in this study were nominated as thriving in adversity and possessing hope and R/S. Within psychology, thriving is the process of adaptive development that is marked by attitudes and behaviors that benefit the self and society (King and Mangan 2021; Lerner et al. 2003). These thriving exemplars are well suited for a highly specific and critical observation of hope and R/S among youth in faith-based contexts.

1.5. Current Study

We undertake a unique qualitative study and are unaware of other “hope” studies using qualitative exemplar data. We aim to investigate the nuanced relationship between R/S and hope in adolescents who are thriving in an LMIC. Specifically, we sought to better understand hope and R/S among a group of thriving Salvadoran youth nominated for possessing high levels of R/S and hope by conducting semi-structured interviews about their future hopes and experiences of hope. The youth in this study were nominated specifically as having high levels of hope and R/S, making their experience of hope especially unique. Examining hope and R/S in those who are most likely to exude them fully provides maximum insights into the underlying connections between these two inter-related constructs. We hypothesized that, informed by their religious context, the agentic hopes of these youth would reflect aspirations focused on benefiting others, and secondly, that evidence of receptive hope would emerge through descriptions of hope experienced in and through relationships.

2. Materials and Methods

This study is part of a larger, mixed-methods study of positive youth development (Tirrell et al. 2019). The current study was based on an inductive and deductive analysis of interviews of thriving exemplars. The following details the relevant aspects of the research design and the data analytic strategy of our current efforts to understand the relations between hope and spirituality.

2.1. Participants

Participants were 18 Salvadoran youth engaged in CI-supported programming sites operating through local congregations in three different regions in El Salvador. These youth were nominated and interviewed for this study specifically because of their experience of living in a LMIC, being actively engaged in a religious context, and being nominated for possessing high levels of the constructs of interest in this study. Nominators for this study were local directors of the three different CI congregation-based child development programs (CDP). Given their program involvement and regular interaction with the children, these nominators were familiar with the children in their program. First, the participants in this study were engaged in CI-supported programming. To be eligible for this programming, youth must experience financial hardship and lack outside scholarship. Further, this programming is provided daily and takes place in a faith-based program (e.g., local church congregation). Secondly, as exemplars, these youth were nominated as possessing high levels of hope and R/S. With regard to R/S, as indicated in nomination criteria (Appendix B), nominators were asked to identify youth who demonstrated a strong commitment to their faith and connection to God. For hope, they were asked to identify youth who had goals, pursued these goals, and lived in a way that indicated that they were on their way toward a hopeful future. We recognize that as exemplars, these youth are very unique, and as such, the results of this study are not generalizable to the larger Salvadoran adolescent population. Nonetheless, this sample was purposively selected due to their capacity to provide rich descriptions of hope and R/S in the context of a religious context amidst adversity. Participants’ ages ranged from 14 to 19 years (Mage = 16.39 years, SDage = 1.83) and 50% were female. Participants had been enrolled in CI-supported faith-based programs for between 8 to 14 years (M = 11.17 years, SD = 1.86). Participants reported family religion as 56% Evangelical, 22% Christian, and 22% Catholic. CI-supported youth are eligible to enroll in programming based on several criteria including age, household monthly income, and lack of outside sponsorship.

2.2. Instrument

The interview protocol (Appendix A), which included formal questions and question probes to elicit increased depth of response, was theory-based and designed to encourage open discussion of personal experiences with various concepts, including hope and spirituality. As part of the larger study, the interview protocol started with general questions about their interests and their sense of self (Hart and Damon 1988) and then moved to their opinions about and experiences of thriving (King et al. 2014; King et al. 2013), their personal strengths, faith and spirituality (King et al. 2014), ecological assets in their life, important relationships, critical events in their life (Flanagan 1954), their sense of purpose (Damon 2008; Bundick et al. 2006) and future orientation (Mueller et al. 2013), how they coped with adversity, and what brought them hope (Bernardo 2010; Callina et al. 2017) and joy (King 2020; King and Defoy 2020). The interview segments of interest in the present study were those which asked about future orientation, faith and spirituality, and experiences of hope specifically.

2.3. Procedure

Nomination criteria for the present study consisted of 25 Likert-type scale items (Appendix B) that were largely adapted from a spiritual exemplar protocol developed in a previous study of exemplary youth (see King et al. 2014). These criteria were informed by positive youth development and thriving (Lerner et al. 2015), character strengths (Lerner and Callina 2014; Schnitker et al. 2019), and spirituality and faith (King et al. 2014). To ensure cultural sensitivity and appropriateness, all nomination criteria were reviewed and approved by CI regional and global staff. Program directors from three sites served as nominators and submitted completed forms and demographic information for 12 adolescents each. In order to maximize representation by age and gender, the research team then selected 6 adolescents to interview from each project site.
Following procurement of consent and assent for each youth, in-person semi-structured interviews were completed by members of the US research team at the program’s local facility. In most cases (n = 14), interviews were completed in English with spontaneous Spanish interpretation by an independent Salvadoran contractor. In a handful of interviews (n = 4), a fluent Spanish-speaking interviewer conducted the interview in Spanish. To reduce possible potential effects of translation, interpreters were trained in the interview protocol and interpretation procedures prior to the commencement of interviews. Interviews lasted an average of 85 min and were audio recorded.
Upon completion of data collection, all interviews were transcribed verbatim by either bilingual members of the US research team or an independently contracted transcription service. Spanish components of the interview were translated into English by bilingual members of the research team. Translation was completed utilizing a side-by-side method adapted from Clark et al. (2017). The source language (Spanish) appeared verbatim in the first column, and the translated version (English) was placed in the second column, with each conversational turn in one row. This approach supports the maintenance of accuracy and integrity in the translation of the interview data (Clark et al. 2017). This translation was then cross-checked for accuracy in two rounds.

2.4. Data Analysis

This study involved two major rounds of analysis, both of which utilized Nvivo Version 12 to code interview transcripts. As part of a larger study (Tirrell et al. 2019), in the first round of analysis a team of six coded the entirety of each interview transcripts for a total of 13 constructs, including hope and spirituality, the foci of this study. Coding was completed blind, meaning that each coder was unable to see the coding completed by other members of the coding team. Each interview was coded by three members of the research team. Coders held consensus meetings in trios after coding each transcript in order to address questions and resolve discrepancies. After every set of three transcripts coded, the entire research team of six then coded one transcript to ensure consensus and assess reliability. The team of six coders held consensus meetings to address questions, resolve discrepancies, and modify code definitions when necessary. This process was then repeated until all 18 transcripts were coded. As a final consensus and reliability check, two members of the research leadership team then spot-checked coding on each of the interview transcripts.
For the analysis completed for this paper, all segments related to hope were isolated for follow-up, in-depth coding by a team of three coders—one from the original coding team and two new coders. Coder 1 was a Mexican-American female, coder 2 was a Caucasian female, and coder 3 was a Caucasian male. It is important to highlight that none of the coders identified as Salvadoran, which may influence the coding process and subsequent interpretations. To demonstrate mindfulness of this limitation, there was regular consultation with a Salvadoran cultural liaison to confirm accurate interpretation and clarify cultural idioms. In addition, coders collectively reviewed coded segments to confirm agreement and address discrepancies. An inductive and deductive thematic approach was used to further understand how R/S may be related to hope (Creswell 2006). This two-phase methodology is helpful in that it uses pre-established, theoretically-informed categories recognized in the literature first (deductive phase), then provides opportunity for identifying categories beyond the existing literature and sensitive to the specific sample’s experience and context (inductive phase; Elo and Kyngas 2008). Given the existing literature, initially deductive coding was informed by conceptualization of hope as having agentic and receptive components. To assess the agentic aspect of hope, which has been studied in developmental psychology by identifying what adolescents hope for, we drew upon Callina and colleagues’ (2014) HFE to devise codes. Consequently, we analyzed the hope segments for hoped-for aspirations and their meanings. Next, given our interest in understanding cultural nuances in HFE and the ways R/S may inform HFE, we implemented an inductive approach to identify the most salient categories of their HFE.
To assess the receptive aspect of hope (Snow 2018), an understudied form of hope that considers the social embeddedness of hope, we initially drew upon Bernardo’s (2010) conceptualization of “loci of hope” to capture the participants’ experiences of hope. After deductively identifying segments pertaining to potential loci of hope, we inductively coded all of these segments for the most salient categories. After coding the segments pertaining to receptive hope for loci of hope, we inductively coded the remaining segments that described hope being contextually informed. This analysis yielded an additional code and subcategory of receptive hope.
In summary, the codes were identified to capture the essence and meaning of the HFE and the experiences of hope. The codebook is presented in Table 1. Once all interviews had been coded, frequency data were calculated.

3. Results

The following section reports the findings of the analysis of HFE and experiences of hope found in the 18 interviews of the thriving exemplars and presents portions of the narratives. We report the frequency for each category of the HFE (agentic hope) and each of the different contexts hope was experienced in (receptive hope). Frequency is defined as the number of exemplars who identified a given category. Given the sample size, frequency data are not meant to imply a level of precision, nor to detract from the more valuable and descriptive representative quotes. Rather, the frequencies are provided to offer broad information about prevalence and patterns that emerged within the sample itself. They are useful only to complement and enhance the narratives themselves and to point to potential areas of focus in the discussion. Frequency and representative quotes for each theme are provided in Table 2.

3.1. Agentic Hope: HFE

First, we analyzed the hope segments in order to identify what these youth hoped for. These agentic hopes were those where youth explicitly named a hoped-for end. Although our inductive analysis revealed that these youth hoped for specific things (e.g., food) or accomplishments (e.g., find a job), the question of who these hopes benefited was more salient. Further analysis of the youth’s HFE found that their aspirations were for the benefit of four distinct targets: self, God, community, and family. Though these agentic hope targets also emerged in coding for receptive hope, those results are described separately because receptive hope involves experiencing hope through relational contexts and having hope renewed when lost or discouraged, rather than specific hoped-for-ends.
Fifteen of the 18 youth described wanting to better themselves for the purposes of benefiting others (family, peers) or the community. Though these HFE targeted the adolescent themselves, the larger expressed purpose was beyond-the-self. For example, some youth expressed wanting to pursue a certain profession (e.g., doctor) so they could help the people in their community.
All participants described having HFE that were self-focused. Self-focused HFE included educational goals, hoped-for future careers, aspirations for adulthood, and hopes for character development. Although several of these HFE involved hoped-for future careers (e.g., doctor, worship leader, teacher, etc.), what distinguished them as the other-oriented HFE previously described is that these did not include an identified beyond-the-self benefit. Some self-focused HFE were more character-driven, such as hoping to be a good person for the world.
Fourteen exemplars expressed hopes for God, God’s Kingdom, or their faith. Many of the hopes for God were “sanctified,” meaning they focused on fulfilling God’s purposes (Mahoney et al. 2005; Schnitker et al. 2019). We categorize HFE that are conceptualized as being for God’s purposes as sanctified hopes. Such HFE include hopes for ordinary things (i.e., a job) that are intended for God’s glory as well as hopes that are directly for God and His purposes. The sanctified hopes described by these youth included spreading the gospel, praising God, and viewing oneself as a means through which to fulfill the purposes of God. Ideologically, these hopes appear consistent with beliefs about serving God that are expected in faith-based contexts.
Twelve youth described hope for their communities, which included protecting, helping, and supporting others or their communities as a whole. Some youth focused on helping specific groups in their community such as children, while others had broader hopes for their community at large (e.g., improving safety).
Similar to hopes for the community, 12 youth described hopes for their families. These youth described hopes that were specifically for their parents, siblings, and extended families. For many of these youth, this involved helping their families to live a better life by exiting poverty.

3.2. Receptive Hope

Recognizing the complexity and understudied nature of receptive hope, we began exploring its social embeddedness through deductive coding using Bernardo’s loci of hope (i.e., family, peers, and supernatural or spiritual beings). Next, inductive coding was used to explore and identify other social contexts that appeared to inform hope. Collectively, hope was described as being experienced in seven contexts: self, caring relationships, family, God, youth development program sponsor, peers, and social activities. In certain circumstances, youth describe their experiences with hope in these contexts as past events, while others describe them as current experiences. Accordingly, the categorizations and passages that follow are strictly descriptive, not causal.
All participants described experiencing hope in themselves and empowering their agentic hope through belief in their own abilities. These youth used words like “me,” “my heart,” and “my soul” when asked where their hope came from or what sustained their hope. These expressions of hope reflected agency and confidence in their abilities to reach their hoped-for-ends.
All participants also described the caring relationships they had built as part of their involvement in a religious context as important relational contexts for hope. These youth described experiencing hope through relationships (e.g., with youth development project staff, tutors, directors, and faith leaders) and having their hope sustained or empowered within these relationships. Note that descriptions of caring relationships with family members or peers were not coded here. Access to caring relationships also involved access to material or practical resources. For these youth, experiencing hope within caring relationships offered resources that shaped both their HFE and their beliefs in attainability. For example, through his relationship with a faith leader, David was provided with access to a computer and internet to “watch documentaries about being a marine biologist,” which he described as encouraging his HFE to become a marine biologist. As another example, others described economic support for themselves and their families that served as a tangible experience of hope.
Seventeen of the 18 youth described experiencing hope in and through their family members (parents, siblings, extended family) as well as having family members who renewed their hopes when they felt hopeless. Although some did not identify a specific family member, fifteen exemplars explicitly named their parent(s) as a source of hope. Three youth described experiencing hope in and through their siblings in particular, while extended family members (e.g., grandmother, aunt) were explicitly named by three youth.
Though not the most commonly identified (14 of 18 youth), God, faith, and one’s relationship with God was the most frequently named context, being mentioned over 60 times in the interview transcripts collectively. Youth described experiencing hope in their relationship with God stating that nothing was impossible with God, feeling supported by God, and describing using prayer to build and maintain and hope.
Sixteen of the youth interviewed had sponsors as part of their involvement in the youth development program. Of the 16 youth with sponsors, five described experiencing hope in and through their sponsors due to financial support or relational support (e.g., letters, visits). For example, for some, the financial support offered through sponsorship bolstered and sustained their hope to overcome poverty. For others, their sponsor provided relational support that informed hope such as encouragement and advice.
One of the most infrequently mentioned loci of hope were peers. Three exemplars described hope in or through their relationships with peers. This included feeling motivated or strengthened by peers and receiving advice from peers.
Hope experienced in social activities emerged through inductive coding of interviews. Three youth described learning valuable life lessons such as perseverance and determination that are essential to hope through their engagement in social activities and workshops such as youth worship, sports teams, and missionary trips. Distinct from hope experienced with peers or in caring relationships, these youth described experiencing hope through their engagement in the activities themselves rather than through interactions with peers or adult leaders during the activity.

4. Discussion

In this study, we interviewed a group of thriving youth involved in a faith-based program in El Salvador to explore how their conceptions and experiences of hope may be related to their R/S. We were interested in identifying how being embedded in a religious context might have informed what these youth hoped for and how they described their experiences of hope. We hypothesized that the ideological and relational resources associated with R/S would inform their agentic and receptive aspects of hope. We used deductive and inductive coding to ascertain how the beliefs and the social context available within the program may be particularly salient to agentic and receptive hope.
Approaching agentic hope through identification of youths’ HFE was consistent with and expanded existing literature (e.g., Callina et al. 2017). Although all interviewed youth endorsed anticipated hopes for themselves (e.g., food, getting a job, etc.), which is consistent with the existing literature on HFE, exploring the meanings of the HFE revealed that these youth held specific hopes in order to benefit others. To our knowledge, this beyond-the-self orientation of HFE is a new finding in the literature. For these youth, externally focused HFE centered on three distinct targets: God, community, and family. Descriptions of other-oriented hopes appear to suggest that youth have internalized beliefs about serving others that are common in Christian faith-based contexts. Given that positive contributions toward self, others, and community is an identified outcome of PYD (Lerner et al. 2015), having other-oriented hopes in addition to their self-oriented hopes may suggest that these youth are on a path toward positive development. Beyond-the-self hopes are indicative of the moral and spiritual aspirations that lead to behaviors benefiting others as part of thriving (King and Mangan 2021). Nonetheless, we cannot assess whether HFE for the benefit of others actually led to other-oriented contributory behaviors in the present study.
The most salient HFE-related finding in this sample was the emergence of what we classified as sanctified hopes. Recall that sanctified hopes refer to HFE that are conceptualized as being for God’s purposes. These youth described prioritizing serving God by spreading the gospel and bringing God glory through praise and service. Interviewees who expressed sanctified hopes viewed themselves as a means through which to fulfill what they believed were the purposes of God. Although over 75% of youth expressed HFE for God, God’s kingdom, or their own faith in general, sanctified hopes emerged as a distinct subcategory of HFE for God in that these hopes appeared to be imbued with a beyond-the-self purpose informed by internalization of spiritual beliefs. Not only does the content of religious beliefs inform the developing young person’s cognitions, values, and beliefs about themselves and the world, but also the sacred nature of religious beliefs imbues meaning into the psychological processes (e.g., empathetic concerns, regulatory processes) supporting hope (King et al. 2020a; Schnitker et al. 2019). People regularly imbue seemingly mundane goals with sacred meaning, a process referred to as sanctification. Research demonstrates that in adult populations, sanctified goals are pursued with greater effort, provide higher levels of meaning, and receive greater social support than unsanctified goals (Mahoney et al. 2005). Further research is necessary to explore if sanctified hopes in youth function similarly to these sanctified goals.
Our study is the first qualitative study of receptive hope—an understudied and complex concept. Receptive hope was evident in the various social contexts named by the interviewed youth. Though receptivity approaches to hope conceptualize hope as socially constructed and shaped by context, we are unable to unpack directionality in the present study, but we identify this issue as one for future research. Our aim was to describe youth experiences of hope in a faith-based context. Youth described experiencing hope in seven different contexts: self, caring adult relationships, family, God, youth development sponsor, social activities, and peers. Adolescents described experiencing hope through relationships in ways that renewed their hope when they felt hopeless (e.g., words of encouragement, validation), provided practical and material support (e.g., access to vocational development opportunities), and modeled hoping behaviors (e.g., prayer, asking for help). Experiencing hope in God was the most frequently mentioned by interviewed youth, mentioned over 60 times collectively. This finding suggests that for these youth, hope was greatly informed by their relationship with and beliefs about God, and when their hope was wavering, their relationship with God appeared to sustain hope. The contexts that emerged suggest that although R/S do not have exclusive influences on hope, involvement in this religious context does offer access to relationships and beliefs that inform adolescents’ experience of hope.

Limitations and Future Directions

Given that our analysis was based on data gathered from thriving exemplars in El Salvador who participated in faith-based positive youth development programs run by CI, the generalizability of our findings is limited. Nonetheless, efforts to understand hope in religious contexts and receptive hope in particular warranted use of this very unique sample. The cross-sectional nature of our data and small sample size prevent causal claims about the development of hope. Instead, our results provide nuanced descriptions of youth hopes and experiences of hope that offer insights into the role of relationships and R/S in hope. Although the findings suggest that religious contexts may nurture hope, longitudinal research is warranted to attempt to ascertain modes of causality. In addition, given the mean age of the sample, we note that the beliefs that inform hope may or may not be stable and enduring. They may reflect the internalization of conventional beliefs of their social surroundings (e.g., family, youth CI program; Fowler 1981) that may reflect foreclosed identity or beliefs (Marcia 1980). Only time will tell if their beliefs in God will continue to inform beyond-the-self hopes and motivation to act consistently with these beliefs. For now, we recognize for this exemplary group of youth that these narratives suggested coherency between R/S and their hoped-for ends. Completing a follow-up study with these youth would clarify the relative stability of HFE as well as the influence of identified relationships in this sample over time.
Another noteworthy limitation involves the interviews with Salvadoran adolescents being completed by American researchers. Despite our effort to offset this limitation by completing the interview using simultaneous interpretation and having the interview protocol translated by local translators, being interviewed by individuals who were not local or Salvadoran may have affected the participants’ responses.

5. Conclusions

Despite the limitations of this study, findings offer important implications for future research. The present study suggested that youth understand their hope in ways that support youth agency and encourage contribution to the greater good, an understanding seemingly shaped by their religious context. Longitudinal research is necessary to determine if these HFE actually motivate and direct prosocial contributions to the family, community, and God. Additional research that studies the role of context (e.g., relationships and ideology) across time in building and maintaining hope would likewise be helpful in unpacking the relation between hope and R/S. Furthermore, our sample was homogeneous, further research is warranted to elucidate how transcendent worldviews, whether connected to a theistic or nontheistic religious tradition or otherwise, may inform how youth conceive of and experience hope. Research that further explores the efficacy of sanctified hope in comparison to other conceptualizations of hope in various circumstances (e.g., daily life vs. adversity) would shed further light on how R/S and hope may co-act to promote PYD.
The aim of this research was to describe the nuanced relation between hope and R/S through the narratives of a group of thriving Salvadoran adolescents embedded in an ideologically- and relationally-rich religious context. Namely, we sought to gain insight into how conceptions and experiences of hope were informed by R/S in a group of adolescents nominated as being hopeful and committed to their faith within an LMIC. Our study sought to describe links and complexities in how hope is related to R/S in order to deepen our understanding of the meaning of hope for youth. A more nuanced understanding of hope allows for further research on the functions of hope and provides insights for youth development programs seeking to promote positive youth development in LMICs.
Expanding the youth development literature that focuses on agentic hope, we identified that these youth named aspirations that were largely for the benefit of others (e.g., community, family). Further, reflecting beliefs prominent in their religious context, several hopeful future expectations were sanctified, meaning they focused on fulfilling what they viewed as God’s purpose(s) for their lives. If these other-oriented hopes are associated with positive contributions towards youths’ friends, families, and communities at large, this finding could suggest that hope experienced within R/S contexts places youth on a path toward positive development.
As one of the first studies of receptive hope, we found evidence of the relational embeddedness of hope, with youth describing hope as experienced in six distinct social contexts. While youth did experience hope within themselves, every interviewed participant described their experience of hope as extending beyond the self (e.g., in caring adults, God, family, etc.) with experiencing hope in God being most frequently mentioned. Though R/S are by no means the only contexts important to hope, involvement in faith-based contexts and commitment to one’s faith appear to offer beliefs and relationships that inform and sustain hope. Such information offers support for the continued collaboration between youth local development programs and congregations.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, J.M.V. and P.E.K.; Methodology, J.M.V., P.E.K.; Formal Analysis, J.M.V., S.N. and B.O.; Data Curation, P.E.K., S.H.; Writing—Original Draft Preparation, J.M.V. and P.E.K.; Writing—Review & Editing, J.M.V., P.E.K., S.M., J.M.T., A.T.R.S. and E.M.D.; Project Administration, J.M.V., E.M.D., A.T.R.S., and G.A.I.M.; Funding Acquisition, P.E.K. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by Compassion International grant number CW2276870.

Institutional Review Board Statement

This study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, and approved by the Institutional Review Board of Fuller Theological Seminary (protocol code 1177488-2, approval date 04/20/2018) for studies involving humans.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects in the study.

Data Availability Statement

The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding author.


The authors extend their appreciation to Leanne Bishara, Uyen Trang Le, and Esther Tan for their work in coding the youth interviews. The authors extend their appreciation to Richard M. Lerner and Jacqueline V. Lerner for their guidance and support in project and manuscript development.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.

Appendix A. Interview Protocol

Exemplar Interview Protocol
The interviewer should introduce him/herself, communicate that they are honored to interview them, and thank the interviewee for his/her participation.

Introduce the interpreter: This is ____. He/she will be interpreting for me today. S/he is a professional interpreter and part of his/her training is respect and confidentiality. Please know s/he will keep every thing you say confidential and not repeat a thing. Also s/he does not work with CI or your church.

Introduce the project: We are studying thriving and faith or spiritual development in youth in your country. We want to know what you think about these topics, what you have experienced, your personal stories, and your ideas.

Introduce the interview: This interview will help researchers better understand things like how young people live meaningful and positive lives; what they find meaning in; what they find hope in; what the role of faith is in their lives; and, how their engagement in Compassion International has impacted them. What you say will be combined with responses of other interviewees so researchers can look for patterns, similarities, and differences in how exemplary teenagers understand, experience, and talk about aspects of thriving and spirituality. Researchers may use information and quotes from this interview in reports, books, articles, and speeches. If they use a quote by you, they will only identify you by your first name, gender, age, and country. If you would prefer that we do not use your first name, please let us know. Do you have any questions so far?

Recording: We are making recordings of this interview so researchers will accurately hear what you have to say. This also allows researchers to use short audio excerpts on the Web, in presentations, and in other communication efforts. Again, your full name would never be used in those recordings.

Voluntary: I want to be sure that you know your participation is completely voluntary. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, you are free to stop participating in the interview or to pass on answering any question. If you would like to stop participating, please tell me or say something like “I want to stop.” If you do not want to answer a particular question, please tell me or say something like “skip this question.”

Ground rules: Please speak for yourself. We are interested in your thoughts, opinions, and experiences. We do not want you to give us what you think are the “right answers.” We really want your honest responses to the questions. Please don’t tell me what you think I want to hear. In the US, we say “Keep it real.” Just be your self. Today you are the teacher, I have come from the United States to learn about your life and hear your story. I know I have a lot to learn from you—both from the things that have gone well in your life and the things that are not always easy. Life’s a bit complicated—isn’t it? I look forward to hearing more about your life and your opinions. Again, thank you for being my teacher today.

Background: First, I have a form that asks you to describe your background. I will read through the questions and you can mark your answers. Let me know if you have any questions or if you want me to slow down.” Give youth the Participant Information Form and allow him/her to complete.

Introduction: Please introduce yourself by giving your name, school, and grade level.

Interview Questions: Now I have a set of questions that ask you about how you think about yourself and about significant people in your life. When you answer my questions, I will be recording your answers.

Getting started: Ok, I am going to start now, and I am going to ask you some general questions about yourself.

Identity Interview

II1. “What kind of person are you?”
Probe 1: “What type of activities are you involved in during a typical day?”
Probe 2: “What kind of emotions do you typically experience?”
Probe 3: “What is important to you?”
Probe 4: “What goals do you have for your future?”
Ideal Self:
IS1. “What kind of person would you ideally like to be at this point in time?”
IS2. “What kind of person would you ideally like to be as an adult?”

Self Evaluation:
SEQ1: “What are you especially proud of about yourself?”
SEQ2: “What are you not proud of?”

Other Evaluation:
OEval1: “What kind of person would your parents say that you are?”
OEval2: “What three words would your closest friends use to describe you?”

INTERVIEWER: You have been nominated as a young person who is doing well—or we use the word “thriving”—which we mean to be on the pathway to a hopeful future.

THR1: Why do you think you were nominated as a young person who is thriving?
Probe 1: How did you get to be the way you are today?
Probe 2: Who helped you get here?
Probe 3: What else has helped you thrive?
THR2: Not necessarily thinking of yourself, but if you were thinking about kids in your community in general, how would you describe a thriving young person? Or a young person who was on the pathway to a hopeful future?
Probe 1: What qualities do they have?
Probe 2: How do they act? What kinds of things do they do?
Probe 3: What skills do they have?
Probe 4: Who do they spend time with?
THR4: Why are some youth like this and some youth not?
THR5: What role, if any, has being registered in Compassion had on your own thriving? Be specific as possible.
Probe 1: Are there specific experiences that you have there?
Probe 2: Are there any activities that make a difference in your ability to thrive?
Probe 3: Are there any people that make a difference in your thriving?
THR6: If you were not registered in Compassion, how do you think your life would be different? Would your hopes be different? If yes, why?

INTERVIEWER: So I am going to ask you some questions about your experience of faith, religion, and/or spirituality. But first, I’d like to clarify what word or term feels the most appropriate to your experience of faith or religion? “Faith?” “Relationship with God?” “Being spiritual?” “ Born again?” “Being religious?”

SP1: What word would you use? And how do you describe that aspect of your life?

NOTE TO INTERVIEWER: Please use appropriate term(s) in the italicized portions of the text below. Please note their preferred terms here:

SP2: Why do you think you were nominated as a spiritual person?
Probe 1: What does being a spiritual person mean to you?
S2: How does your faith impact how you live?
Probe 1: How does it impact your behaviors?
Probe 2: What is most important for you to be or do as a person of faith?
Probe 3: How does your faith impact your relationships with family, friends, and others?
Probe 4: Would your friends describe you as spiritual? Why or why not?
INTERVIEWER: Now I am going to ask you some questions about the place of spirituality or faith in your life.
S1. How does your faith inform your understanding of who you are?
Probe 1: How does it inform your understanding of your place in the world?
Probe 2: Where or how did you gain this understanding?
S7: How do you attend to or nurture your spiritual growth or development?
Probe 1: Do you have specific spiritual practices? What are they?
Probe 2: How often, where and with who do you practice them?
Probe 3: How do they impact you?
S8: Are there individuals or a community that promote or encourage this spiritual growth? Who are they?
Probe 1: How? Is this formal or informal?
Probe 2: How do these individuals impact your spirituality?
Probe 3: What is the community? And how does this community impact you spiritually?
SP2: I’m curious. From your perspective, how did you get to be the spiritual person that you are today?
Probe 1: Who has had the most influence on your faith? How?
Probe 2: Has this been formal or informal?
Probe 3: What about the influence of a community or congregation? How?
Probe 2: What else in life has shaped your faith?
S8.5: How does your involvement with Compassion impact your faith?
Probe 1: Are there specific activities that nurture your faith—if so what are they and how?
Probe 2: Are there individuals (adults or peers) that you interact with in the program who help you with your faith? Who are they and how do they help with your faith?
Probe 3: If you were not registered in Compassion, do you think your faith or spirituality would be any different? If yes, how and why?
S9: Do you support or encourage others in their own spiritual growth? How?
  Probe 1: Does this happen on purpose, or does it just happen? Please explain.

S9: Do you support or encourage others in their own spiritual growth? How?

S10: When you come upon an obstacle, challenge or personal issue, what helps you cope with these difficult times?
Probe 1: How did you learn to overcome challenges or difficulties?
Probe 2: What gives you hope that you can overcome?
Probe 3: How has the Compassion programs helped you cope when things are difficult?
S11: Have you ever had a spiritual struggle? If so, could you describe it?
Probe 1: How did this experience impact you?
S15: What makes it hard to be spiritual or have faith?
Probe 1: How do you overcome this?
Probe 2: Have you ever done something because of your spirituality that was difficult? What happened?
S16: Is there anything else you would like to say about your life or identity as a Christian?

INTERVIEWER: Now I am going to ask you some general questions about your life.


PR1: What or who makes you feel safe and protected?
Probe 1: If it is a person or entity, how does that person or entity make you feel safe and protected?
Probe 2: Does being registered in Compassion impact your feelings of being safe? If so, how? If not, why not?
This is kind of a deep question. In English we have a word “mattering”—and the idea is that a person matters. Their life is significant and matters, just because they are themselves. This is related to the Christian idea of “dignity.” That each person matters and deserves to be treated with dignity, because they are God’s creation.

M1: In your heart of hearts, do you feel like you matter?
M2: How does this impact your life?
M3: Who do you matter to?
Probe 1: How do you know?
Probe 2: To whom else do you matter—feel free to list the most important people that come to mind.
Probe 3: How do they show you that you matter to them?
M4: How do you live to show to other people that they matter?
Known and Loved:
K&L1: Do you feel truly loved by anyone (e.g., by God, parents, pastor, friends, siblings, etc)? If yes, who is/are that person or persons?
Probe 1: Tell me about how it feels to be truly loved?
Probe 2: How do you know you are loved by that person (a feeling, they tell you, in their actions, etc.)
Probe 3: Does their love stop at times? If so why?
Probe 4: How does this love change your life? If you were not loved? What would your life be like?
K&L2: Do you feel truly known by that person?
Probe 1: What parts of you do they know? What parts do they not know?
Probe 2: How does being known by them impact you? Or change your life?
K&L2: What do you think that person loves about you?
  Probe 1: What has that person’s love taught you about yourself?

K&L 3: Has your involvement in Compassion taught you something about being known and loved that you might not have learned if you were not registered in Compassion? If yes, what has Compassion taught you about being loved?
Probe 1: How have you learned this about love?
If participant answered with someone from CI above, skip to the next question. If they did did not answer someone from CI in K&L1, ask:

K&L4: Is there someone at CI who you feel really known and loved by?
Probe 1: How does that impact you?
Probe 2: How is that experience different from the person you listed above?
Future Orientation:
Ok, I’m going to change gears a bit and ask you about your thoughts about the future.
FO1. “What do you hope your life will be like as an adult?”
Probe 1: “How likely is it that your hope will come true?”
Probe 2: “How much control do you think you have over whether or not this future will come true?”
Probe 3: “Why do you think that this is what your life will be like?”
Probe 4: “What steps are you taking to make those hopes come true?
Probe 5: “Who are the people that are helping you achieve that hopes you have for the future?”
FO2: Where does your hope come from?
Probe 1: Does it come from any specific beliefs? If so, what are they and how do they make a difference?
Probe 2: Does hope stem from any relationships? If so which ones and how do they impact your hope?
Probe 3: Is there anything about yourself that gives you hope?
Probe 4: How has your registration in Compassion impacted your hopes for the future and if and how those hopes will come true?
FO3: If you ever lost hope, what or who gave you get a renewed sense of hope?

Critical Incident Timeline
INTERVIEWER: Now I am going to ask you some questions about things that have happened to you in your life. Please pull out your personal timeline of important events.

CI1: Please describe the events that you put on it.
Probe 1: How did these impact you as a Christian?
Probe 2: You are a spiritual person. Have you always been this way?
Probe 3: Has there been gradual change? Please describe this.
Probe 4: Has it gone up and down? Backwards and forwards? Please describe this.
Probe 5: How do you think you will continue to change as a spiritual person throughout your life?
CI2: I want to ask you some similar questions in a broader sense than your faith, but in this idea of thriving.
Probe 1: How did these events impact your ability to thrive?
Probe 2: Have you always been thriving?
Probe 3: Has there been gradual change? Please describe this.
Probe 4: Has it gone up and down? Backwards and forwards? Please describe this.
Probe 5: How do you think you will continue to grow and thrive throughout your life?
CI3. “Overall what do you think has been one of the most important things that happened to you in your life? Can you describe it to me?”
Probe 1: “How has this changed you?”
Probe 2: “What were you like before this happened and now after?”
CI4. “This is a tough question and if you prefer not to answer it, that is okay. What has been one of the worst things that happened to you in your life that you are ok to talk about? Can you describe it to me? If you would rather not tell me, do you feel comfortable telling me how it impacted you?”
Probe 1: How did it change you?”
Probe 2: “What were you like before it happened and now after?”
Probe 3: If this event happened when you were registered in Compassion, did your registration in Compassion help you through this event? If so, how?
Probe 4: “What advice or suggestions did your parents give you about this situation?”
Probe 5: What advice or suggestions did Compassion/Church staff give you about this situation?
CI3. “What do you think has been one of the best things that happened to you in your life?”
Probe 1: “How has this changed you?”
Probe 2: “What were you like before this happened and now after?”
Probe 3: “If this occurred while you were registered at Compassion, how did Compassion respond to this event? At the church?”
Probe 4: “Was your sponsor aware? How did they respond?”
Purpose in Life:
PL3. “Would you say your life has a sense of purpose?”
Probe 1: “What is it?”
Probe 2: “Where does this sense of meaning come from?”
Probe 3: “How does it affect the way you live your life?”
PL4. “If I were to talk with an adult in your life—like a teacher, pastor, or coach--who knew you well, how would he or she finish the following sentence?
4a. I think the most important thing in participant’s name life is...
4b. How do adults like these help you reach this goal?”
PL5. “If I were to talk with a friend who knew you well, how would he or she finish the following sentence?
5a. I think the most important thing in participant’s name, life is...
5b. How do your friends help you reach this goal?”
PL6. “If I were to talk with your parents who knew you the best, how would he or she finish the following sentence:
6a. I think the most important thing in participant’s name, life is...
6b. How do your parents help you reach this goal?”
Positive Youth Development:
CARE1: “Would you consider yourself a caring person?”
Probe 1: How do you show people you care?
Probe 3: Why do you act in these ways?
Probe 4: What has Compassion taught you about caring for others that you might not have learned if you were not registered in Compassion?
CHAR1: “How would you describe your character?”
Probe 1: How would those close to you describe your character?
Probe 2: Would your friends describe your character differently than your parents?
CHAR2: “Would you describe yourself as a good or just person? A person who does the right thing?”
Probe 1: How do you demonstrate justice and doing the right thing in your life?
Probe 2.: Why do you act in these ways?
Probe 3: What has Compassion taught you about being a just and good person that you might not have learned if you were not registered in Compassion?
CON1. Would you describe yourself as a confident person?
Probe 1: What gives you confidence? What takes away from you feeling confident?
Probe 2: What and who has had the biggest impact on your confidence throughout your life?
Probe 3: How has being registered in Compassion impacted your confidence (in good or bad ways)?
COMP1. Do you feel competent (or capable) in your day to day life?
Probe 1: What are your greatest competencies/What are you most capable at?
Probe 2: How did you become competent or capable in these skills?
Probe 3: What role has being registered in Compassion had on the development of your competencies?
J1: We are interested in understanding the difference between joy and happiness. Would you say in your life you experience both or a difference between the two?
Probe 1: If uncertain explain: “Happiness is a positive feeling that is dependent on an experience of some sort. It is fleeting. Joy is a more enduring feeling and it’s a positive feeling, but one can experience joy even in the face of challenge or suffering. For example, you might not make a team and feel sad, but your friend might make it and you can feel joy for them.
J2: Given that difference, tell me about a time you were deeply joyful. What is it about that moment that made you feel joyful?
Probe 1: Who else was involved in that moment?
Probe 2: What are the barriers to feeling joyful in your life?
Youth Programs:
Ok, we are really almost done; this is the last section. There are many scientists and researchers like me who are interested in learning more about what makes an effective youth program. Most of the research that has already been done on what makes a youth program effective has been done in the United States. I’d like to hear your perspective on what is helpful in El Salvador.

YP1: What would you say is most important about Compassion to help you thrive? Like really what means the most to you? Or helped you the most in your life?
Probe 1: If stuck probe with: For example—does it have to do with support? People? Help? Safety? Activities? Programs?
Probe 2: What else? (to interviewer: attempt to elicit at least three things).
Probe 3: What about the role of the sponsors? How does your sponsor impact you?
YP2: I just asked what was most important about Compassion to help you thrive, but what do you think is most important in general for all the kids involved in Compassion?
  Probe 1: Do you think that changes at different ages? If so how?
YP4: If there was one thing you could change about Compassion, what would that be?
We are curious if the same things that make a program effective for helping kids thrive in the US are similar in ______ and also what they might look like here.

Safe spaces:
First, we know from research that effective programs take place in safe spaces.
YPS1: You mentioned/did not mention safety? Does that feel important for Compassion to pay attention to? Why or why not?

YPS2: Does being registered in Compassion impact your feelings of being safe? If so, how? If not, why not?
Probe 1: What or who specifically in the CI program makes you feel safe and protected? If it is a person or entity, how does that person or entity make you feel safe and protected?
YPS3: Does your Compassion program take place in a safe space?
Probe 1: How do you know it is safe?
Probe 2: When thinking about feeling secure, does being in the CI building different from being in you home or school?
Sustained, Positive Relationships with Adults:
One thing that has been recognized to be important is providing youth with long-term, positive relationships with caring, committed and competent adults, such as pastors, project leaders, mentors, and teachers.

AR1: I know we’ve talked a lot about your experiences with Compassion, but would you say that CI provides you with these kind of relationships with adults?
Probe 1: If so, can you describe who those relationships are with and what makes those adults positive influences in your life?
Probe 2: How long have those adults been in your life?
Life Skills:
A third aspect of helpful youth programs is that, in addition to academic skills, they teach young people important life skills they need to succeed in their society—skills like problem-solving and building healthy relationships with peers.
Probe 1: Does CI teach these kinds of life skills? If so, what life skills does it teach?
Probe 2: What about job skills?
Probe 3: Of all the skills you learn at Compassion, which do you think will be most useful for life?
Build Life Skills in Leadership Roles:
Finally, we have learned that effective youth programs provide youth opportunities to build their life skills through not only being participants in the program, but also as leaders of valued community activities. Does Compassion give you opportunities to take on leadership? If so where and how?
Probe 1: In the church or at other Compassion sponsored programs?
Probe 2: Does Compassion help you pursue leadership roles in your community outside of Compassion programs? Please describe?
Probe 3: How do these leadership roles help you build your life skills?
Wrap Up:

INTERVIEWER: I have asked you questions about Compassion’s impact on you throughout the interview. At this point I want to offer you opportunity to reflect on all the topics we covered and think Compassion.
COMP1: What has been the biggest influence that Compassion has had on your life?
Probe 1: When you compare your life to young people in your community that are not registered in Compassion, how are you different? How are you the same?
END1: Finally, Is there anything else you would like to say about any of these topics before we end our conversation?

Conclusion: Thank participant for their information and their reflective and respectful participation. Conclude with the debriefing script. Remind participants how they are contributing to an international research project on young spiritual exemplars. Say that if they wanted to see the results from the study, they would receive information in 2018 if they provided contact information on their participant information form. Say good-bye and thank you again to those who are leaving.

Videotaping: If participant and parents have given permission for videotaping, ask them after taking a break if they would still be okay to answer a handful of questions on the video camera.
Wrap up: After the interview:
Check whether audio recorders worked throughout the session.
Complete the Interview Information Form.
Gather the participant information form, interview information form, completed consent and assent forms, and any notes from the interview. Make copies and send originals to researchers.

Appendix B. Nomination Criteria

Youth Exemplar Nomination Form:
Compassion International Exemplars of Thriving & Faith
Thank you for nominating 8 young people from your local Child Development Program (CDP) to help us understand more fully what a thriving young person is like in your community and the role of faith in promoting thriving. Please nominate 4 girls and 4 boys who are aged 14–19 who stand out as youth with exemplary faith and are thriving. When we say thriving, think about youth who you think are doing really well in your community and are on a pathway to a hopeful future.
Using the criteria starting on page 2, please nominate four females and four males that have been registered in Compassion programming for at least two years. Please make sure at least 2 are ages 14–15, 2 are 16–17, and 2 are 18–19. The youth identified and your rankings and comments of them will be kept anonymous and confidential. Only the translator will see your answers and responses. They will also keep all information confidential. Nothing identifiable will be shared with Compassion International. Again, the name of the youth will be kept confidential.
Thank you for your willingness to consider nominating youth for Exemplars of Faith and Thriving in Adolescence. Please fill out a separate form for each young person.
Please fill in the following information so that we may contact this youth and his/her parents.
Youth Information:
Youth name:             Compassion International ID#:
Date of Birth:    Gender:     Years Registered in Compassion:
Grade in School:           Religious Affiliation:
Youth contact (email, cell phone, or other):
Nominator Information:
Name:    How many years have you known nominee:
Phone number:
Affiliation with CDP and CI:
Relationship to nominee:
Parent/Guardian Information:
Youth parent(s)’/guardian’s name:
Parent/guardian contact (email, cell phone, or other):
Youth/parent address:
Recommended means of contacting youth and parents:
Child Development Program (CDP info):
CDP name:    CDP number:
CDP Address:
CDP Director:     Director contact info:
Nomination Criteria:
 Rarely  Sometimes  Often  Always
 1     2     3     4
Lives in a way that makes you believe they are on a pathway to a hopeful future. 1     2     3     4
Has short and/or long term goals and pursues them.  1     2     3     4
What goals are you aware of? (Please write answer.)
Demonstrates a strong commitment to their faith.  1     2     3     4
How is their faith evident in their life more than other youth their age? (Please provide 1–3 short examples.)
Exhibits a sense of vitality in their relationship with God? In other words has a strong connection to God. 1     2     3     4
Is actively enthusiastically engaged in Compassion. 1     2     3     4
How is this evident? (Please provide 2–3 short examples.)
Inspires others around them in their faith or personal development. 1     2     3     4
Does well in school. 1     2     3     4
Contributes to his or her community in positive ways. 1     2     3     4
How does he or she contribute or help those around him or her?
Pursues something they are passionate about, really interested in, and or naturally gifted in? 1     2     3     4
What is that? And how do they pursue it?
Is hopeful about his or her future. 1     2     3     4
Is confident. 1     2     3     4
How do they demonstrate this confidence? What would you say their confidence is in?
Exhibits compassion for others. 1     2     3     4
Shows competency in skills that will enable him or her to generate income. 1     2     3     4
Expresses joy. 1     2     3     4
Stands up for what is right. 1     2     3     4
Has positive relationships with peers. 1     2     3     4
Has positive relationships with adults. 1     2     3     4
Takes on leadership roles amongst his or her peers. 1     2     3     4
If there is another criteria that you think we should consider, please describe it here and rank the nominated youth accordingly.  1     2     3     4


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Table 1. Agentic and Receptive Hope Codebook.
Table 1. Agentic and Receptive Hope Codebook.
Agentic Hope:
GodExemplars’ description of having hope/expectation for God or their faith. Includes hoping to trust in God, grow faith, etc.
SelfExemplars’ description of having hope/expectation for themselves. This includes their own career, financial security, safety, etc.
FamilyExemplars’ description of having hope/expectation for their families. This includes hoping to help, support, heal, etc.
CommunityExemplars’ description of having hope/expectations for the community. This includes hoping for their community to be safe, prosperous, evangelized, etc.
Receptive Hope:
SelfExemplars’ description of experiencing hope in oneself (i.e., me, my heart, my soul, etc.). Finding hope in/through the self, renewing hope through personal decisions, self-confidence through hope.
FamilyExemplars’ description of experiencing hope in family (e.g., my mom, parents, brother, aunt). Experiencing hope in/through family, family members renewing hope when it is lost/discouraged.
PeersExemplars’ description of experiencing hope in peers (e.g., best friend, other youth in youth program, etc.). Finding hope in/through friends/peers, friends/peers renewing hope when it is lost/discouraged.
God/SpiritualityExemplars’ description of experiencing hope in God or their faith (e.g., God, prayer, religion, faith, etc.). Finding hope in/through God/spirituality, God renewing hope when it is lost/discouraged.
Caring RelationshipsExemplars’ description of experiencing hope in caring relationships (e.g., with tutors, faith leaders, etc.). Finding hope in/relationships. Caring relationships as renewing hope when it is lost/discouraged.
Social ActivitiesExemplars’ description of experiencing hope in social activities (e.g., worship team, workshops, activities, etc.).
Youth Development Program SponsorExemplars’ description of experiencing hope in their youth development program sponsor.
Table 2. Agentic and Receptive Hope Frequencies and Representative Quotes (n = 18).
Table 2. Agentic and Receptive Hope Frequencies and Representative Quotes (n = 18).
ThemeRepresentative QuoteFrequency
Agentic Hope
Benefit of Others“I want to be a person who helps those who need it… I don’t want to be a person who thinks only about myself, but rather, who thinks about everyone else.”—Alejandra
“Well, to help, to be able to help a lot of people, I would work as a doctor.”—Adrian
Self“[I would] like to graduate from high school, and—and God willing, make it to the university and graduate.”—Daniela
“[I] hope to become a good chef.”—Carlos
God “I want to be a servant of God.”—Emilia
“[I want to] be a missionary and help others so they can know the word of God.”—David
Community“To continue helping people, I would focus more on children, I love children. I also work with children here in the church. Because the children are not at fault for what they go through or what they live through. So, I will focus, when I am older, on helping children, parents, those who really need both God as well as someone there to encourage them.”—Clara
“protecting those who might be in risk. And supporting the people who are struggling so they can overcome.”—Adrian
Family “Now I am praying to God because—so that my family can get closer.”—Emilia
“Yes, my parents. My biggest dream is to get them ahead. Take them out of where they, where we live for a better life.”—Clara
Receptive Hope
Self “My hope comes out of my heart. It is knowing that I will achieve what I set out to do. I could give everything to that.”—Adrian
“Something inside of your heart tells you, keep going and you can, and don’t surrender because if you surrender you have already lost.”—Bianca
Caring Relationships“[The pastor] always talks to me and says, ‘I know that you are going to be able to overcome, I know that you can give more,’ and he has always pushed me a lot and made me give my all.”—David
“My tutors, yes, our director—people who help us and motivate us to achieve our dreams.”—Jasmine, when asked who fills her with hope
Family Relationships“[My hope comes] from my parents and God. [My parents] give me encouragement, they tell me that I can do it. And they say, ‘we know that you are going to become someone in your life.’”—Daniela
“Yes, more than anything, my parents because I can tell them about my doubts and everything.”—Emiliano
God“Sometimes I say, ‘God give me strength,’ because there are times when I don’t feel like I have the strength to continue, but He has been with me always.—Alejandra
“Well, putting myself to pray helps. That encourages me a lot. Knowing that not your whole life will be easy, and that we have to try to make it better to achieve, overcome the obstacle.”—Adrian
Youth Development Program Sponsor“Well, [my sponsor has] influenced my life in many ways, not just financially, but spiritually, because they have taught me something that has shaped my identity: to never give up. In her letters, she always tells me that she is learning something because she wants to become this. And after many days, months, years, she sends me a picture that says “Son, I achieved it.” And that brings me joy and inspires me to say… if a woman of that age can do it, why can’t I?—Benjamin
“The best thing that happened to me was when my sponsor helped me, and we were able to buy a grill to make pupusas. That is where my mom… was able to open a pupusa stand and with that income, she was able to help me fund my studies.”—Aaron
Peers“Sometimes I tell my parents or friends, they motivate me and give me strength.”—Carlos
“I don’t know, the three of us have faith and we know that it will take time, but someday we will leave [the country].”—David
Social Activities“But in all of that, the orchestra became my refuge. And I loved to go every Monday… and [being in the orchestra] gave me strength. I remember that one time I ripped several strings because I literally poured myself out into the instruments.”—Luis
“It was a huge joy to be able to learn something new, to be able to carry the message of God to other people. I visited hospitals where people were prostrate with illness and [was] able to see the, their interest in knowing about God, and be able to receive Him with tearful eyes and accept.”—Clara
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Vaughn, J.M.; King, P.E.; Mangan, S.; Noe, S.; Hay, S.; O’Neil, B.; Tirrell, J.M.; Dowling, E.M.; Iraheta Majano, G.A.; Sim, A.T.R. Agentic and Receptive Hope: Understanding Hope in the Context of Religiousness and Spirituality through the Narratives of Salvadoran Youth. Religions 2022, 13, 376.

AMA Style

Vaughn JM, King PE, Mangan S, Noe S, Hay S, O’Neil B, Tirrell JM, Dowling EM, Iraheta Majano GA, Sim ATR. Agentic and Receptive Hope: Understanding Hope in the Context of Religiousness and Spirituality through the Narratives of Salvadoran Youth. Religions. 2022; 13(4):376.

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Vaughn, Jennifer Medina, Pamela Ebstyne King, Susan Mangan, Sean Noe, Samuel Hay, Bridget O’Neil, Jonathan M. Tirrell, Elizabeth M. Dowling, Guillermo Alfredo Iraheta Majano, and Alistair Thomas Rigg Sim. 2022. "Agentic and Receptive Hope: Understanding Hope in the Context of Religiousness and Spirituality through the Narratives of Salvadoran Youth" Religions 13, no. 4: 376.

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