The measurement and assessment of attitudes was significantly shaped by two pioneering psychologists around 1930, L. L. Thurstone and R. A. Likert. Subsequently, others have refined the science, and psychologists of religion have benefited from this general development in social psychology.
In the 1970s, Leslie J. Francis initiated a research program concerned with the assessment of attitude toward Christianity during childhood and adolescence, employing the Francis Scale of Attitude Toward Christianity. This research began in the United Kingdom, and has since been extended by others in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, United States, and elsewhere. More recently, similar instruments have been developed to assess attitudes within other faith traditions, including the Katz-Francis Scale of Attitude Toward Judaism, the Sahin-Francis Scale of Attitude Toward Islam, and the Santosh- Francis Scale of Attitude Toward Hinduism. These instruments enable studies originally conceived in a Christian context to be replicated and extended in other faith contexts. Cumulatively, these studies have illustrated the centrality of the attitudinal dimensions of religion in shaping a wide range of aspects of the personal and social development of children and adolescents.
This research has examined the factors that can promote or inhibit the development of positive attitudes toward religion during childhood and adolescence, including parental religious practice, socioeconomic status, contact with church, type of school attended, friendship networks, patterns of television viewing, pop culture, and basic factors like gender, age, and personality. This program of research has also examined the factors that can be influenced and shaped by positive and negative attitudes toward religion, including issues like abortion, altruism, beliefs about the world, conservatism, evolutionary theory, gender orientation, intelligence, mental health, moral values, pro-social values, purpose in life, scientism, self-actualization, self-esteem, and suicidal ideation.
The empirical evidence from this research demonstrates that a positive attitude toward religion plays an important role in youth/human development. In turn a range of personal and contextual factors play an important role in shaping an individual's attitude toward religion.
The attitudinal dimension of religion has therefore proved to be an important key to understanding the influence of religion and spirituality on the development and formation of young people. Those who care for and hope to better understand the religious development of young people and/or the healthy development of young people need to take seriously the attitudinal dimension of religion.