Religion in the Lives of African Americans: Social, Psychological, and Health Perspectives
Publication Year: 2004
Religion in the Lives of African Americans: Social, Psychological, and Health Perspectives examines many broad issues including the structure and sociodemographic patterns of religious involvement; the relationship between religion and physical and mental health and well-being; the impact of church support and the use of ministers for personal issues; and the role of religion within specific subgroups of the African American population such as women and the elderly. Authors Robert Joseph Taylor, Linda M. Chatters, and Jeff Levin reflect upon current empirical research and derive conclusions from several wide-ranging national surveys, as well as a focus group study of religion and coping. Recommended for students taking courses in racial and ethnic studies, multicultural and minority studies, black studies, religious studies, psychology, sociology, human development and ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 2: African American Religious Participation
- Overview of the Chapter
- The Interface between Religiosity and Spirituality
- Models of Religious Involvement in Black Churches
- Socio-Historical Role of the Church
- Religious Denomination
- Denominational Switching
- Generational Differences in Religious Denomination
- Conceptualization and Measurement of Religious Involvement
- Structural Determinants of Religious Involvement
- Profile of Religious Participation
- Black-White Differences
- Gender Differences
- Age Differences
- Marital Status Differences
- Education and Income Differences
- Regional and Urban-Rural Differences
- Denominational Differences in Religious Participation
- Physical Health Differences
- Religious Participation among Elderly Blacks
- Religious Participation among Black Adolescents
- Religious Noninvolvement
- Religious Artifacts
- Religious Identity
- Focus Group Findings
- Reading Religious Materials
- Religious Programming
- Religious Participation in the Context of Work
- Living in a Christ-Like Manner
- Volunteerism as a Form of Religious Participation
- Organized Religious Activities
- Focus Group Summary
- Chapter Summary and Conclusion
- Chapter 3: The Frequency and Importance of Prayer
- Research on Prayer
- Research on Prayer among Black Americans
- Requests for Prayer
- Focus Group Findings
- Communication and Relationship with God
- God as Best Friend
- Meditation and Prayer
- Prayers of Thanksgiving
- Prayers of Petition
- Prayer as Intercession
- Writing down One's Prayers
- The Importance of Prayer
- The Power of Prayer
- Focus Group Summary
- Chapter Summary and Conclusion
- Chapter 4: Prayer as a Source of Coping
- Coping with Personal Problems
- Prayer and Coping with Life Problems
- Religious Coping and Caregiving
- Religious Coping and Health and Illness
- Harmful Effects of Religious Coping
- Prayer and Coping among Black Americans
- Focus Group Findings
- Prayer is an Ongoing Coping Activity
- Interpersonal Conflicts on the Job
- Prayer Gives Strength, Wisdom, and Guidance
- Prayer Reduces Stress
- Spiritual Component of Prayer
- Loving Your Enemies/Forgiveness
- Power of Prayer
- Focus Group Summary
- Chapter Summary and Conclusion
- Chapter 5: Use of Ministers for Personal Problems
- Clergy and Formal Support Systems
- Clergy as a Coping Resource
- Survey Data on the Use of Ministers
- Focus Group Findings
- Patterns and Circumstances of Using Ministers
- Deciding to Forgo Clergy Help
- Choosing to Disclose Difficult Problems
- Focus Group Summary
- Chapter Summary and Conclusion
- Chapter 6: Church Members as a Source of Social Support
- Church-Based Informal Social Support
- Family and Church Support
- Profile of the Receipt of Support from Church Members
- Focus Group Findings
- Church Members Provide Instrumental and Emotional Support
- Importance of Building Relationships with Church Members
- Importance of Having Church Members Provide Support
- Similarity between Church Members and Family Members
- Formal Programs in the Church
- Reciprocal Relationships
- Giving Help to Church Members
- Difficulty in Giving and Receiving Help
- Focus Group Summary
- Chapter Summary and Conclusion
- Chapter 7: Negative Interaction among Church Members
- Research on Negative Interaction
- Negative Interaction among African Americans
- Negative Interaction among Church Members
- Survey Findings on Negative Interaction among Church Members
- Focus Group Findings
- Church Members, like Family Members, Have Conflict
- Avoiding Gossip
- Generational Differences
- Conflict over Special Programs and Board Meetings
- Losing Church Members Because of Conflict
- Avoiding Conflict
- Feeling Unwelcome
- Helping People Feel Welcome
- Other Concerns
- Problems in Church Do Not Inhibit Attendance and Participation
- Focus Group Summary
- Chapter Summary and Conclusion
- Chapter 8: Impact of Religion on Physical Health
- Research on Religion and Health
- Religion and Health in African Americans
- Religion and Morbidity in Study Samples of Whites and Blacks
- Religion and Morbidity in African American Study Samples
- Religion and Mortality in African Americans
- Religion, Race, and Health: Theoretical Considerations
- Chapter 9: Impact of Religion on Mental Health and Well-Being
- Religion and Mental Health: Clinical and Population-Based Research
- Religion, Aging, and Psychological Well-Being
- Religion, Mental Health, and Well-Being in African Americans
- Studies in Which Effects of Race Are Controlled
- Religion and Mental-Health Outcomes
- Religion and Psychological Well-Being
- Studies That Investigate Racial Differences
- African American Study Samples
- Religion and Depressive Symptoms
- Religion and Positive Well-Being
- Religion, Race, and Mental Health: Directions for Future Research
- Chapter 10: Conclusions and Implications
- Chapter Review and Implications
- Current Research Projects
A number of people have been instrumental in shaping the direction of our personal and professional lives.
Robert Joseph Taylor and Linda Chatters dedicate this book to the memory of Mrs. Willie H. Taylor, Reverend Walter R. Murray, Jr., and Mrs. Thelma Murray, who were true embodiments of the meaning of lived faith. Jeff Levin dedicates this book, with love, to his wife, Lea.
Copyright © 2004 by Sage Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Taylor, Robert Joseph.
Religion in the lives of African Americans: Social, psychological, and health perspectives / Robert Joseph Taylor, Linda M. Chatters, Jeff Levin.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-7619-1708-X (cloth)—ISBN 0-7619-1709-8 (pbk.)
1. African Americans—Religion. I. Chatters, Linda M. II. Levin, Jeffrey S. III. Title.
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The publication of Religion in the Lives of African Americans: Social, Psychological, and Health Perspectives reflects the fruition of several areas of inquiry that began close to 20 years ago. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Taylor and Chatters initiated a line of research that investigated issues of church-based social support networks using data from the National Survey of Black Americans (Taylor & Chatters, 1986a, 1986b, 1988). This was followed by other publications that expanded their program of research to examine the antecedents and consequences of religious involvement among diverse segments of this population group. Jeff Levin, a former student of the late Dr. C. Eric Lincoln, the preeminent scholar of black religious life, began his career by investigating the role of the Black Church and pastors for the health and well-being of African Americans (Levin, 1984, 1986). He subsequently went on to author several seminal pieces on religious factors in physical and mental health, effectively establishing the field of “the epidemiology of religion” (Levin & Vanderpool, 1987). As luck would have it, Levin came to the University of Michigan for postdoctoral studies with the Institute of Gerontology in the late 1980s, where Taylor and Chatters were faculty members in the Schools of Social Work and Public Health, respectively. The three began discussing mutual research interests and possible projects, thus initiating a long and productive collaboration and friendship.
This convergence of events could not have occurred at a more opportune time. Despite an established body of literature on African American religion and religious traditions, there had been few, if any, systematic empirical investigations that explored these questions within study samples that adequately represented the black population. In the absence of reliable data, the commonplace assumption within the social and behavioral sciences was that black people, as a group, were uniformly religious in their overall worldviews and that a deeply held religious orientation influenced their perceptions and attitudes on a wide range of issues and concerns. Further, [Page xii]black religious life was typically characterized in a variety of ways that ranged from condescending to overtly pejorative.
Scholarly discourse on the nature, antecedents, and consequences of religious involvement among African Americans was particularly limited, relying heavily on the notion that social deprivations in broader society functioned to motivate and sustain involvement in and attachment to black religious traditions and meaning systems. The implication perhaps being that social advancement and progress would result in significant shifts in religious orientation and preference among African Americans and an abandonment of black religious traditions. As a number of critics observed (see, e.g., Lincoln & Mamiya, 1990), these portrayals of black religious life were deficient in several respects and especially in failing to consider religious expression as a dynamic entity changing with the historical context of black lives. Particularly egregious was the assumption that black religious sentiment and belief was virtually monolithic and devoid of distinctions arising from factors such as social class, region, gender, and socioeconomic status. Coupled with this stereotypical portrayal of black religious expression were equally injurious notions within academic and scientific circles concerning the meaning and use of religion more generally. Levin (1994c) has written extensively about ideological and professional resistance to the serious consideration of religious phenomena by social, behavioral, and health scientists, even in the face of a substantial body of evidence that religion has verifiable effects on health and social behaviors.
Throughout their careers, the coauthors of this volume routinely questioned and critiqued these outmoded perspectives on religion in the lives of African Americans and made important contributions to the systematic and empirical study of the religious experiences of African Americans. Their combined backgrounds and expertise span the disciplines of sociology, psychology, and epidemiology, as well as the fields of gerontology, religious studies, social work, and public health. Their research and approach are firmly positioned within and informed by established theories and models in the social and behavioral sciences. Further, their inquiries have pushed the boundaries of these theories and models in ways that enlarge their scope and depth. Thus their work encompasses both a deeper appreciation of the potential role of religious content and meaning in all aspects of African American life, as well as an understanding of the unique ways that individual and social factors function to pattern and distinguish religious behavior and belief within this group.
As these comments suggest, Taylor, Chatters, and Levin bring a unique perspective and focus to their work that has done much to change the face of research on these topics. First, they have argued for conceptual clarity in [Page xiii]treatments of religion that embodies an appreciation for a broad and diverse conceptualization of religion. Accordingly, their work has been at the forefront of efforts to understand religious involvement as a multidimensional construct and in exploring both the antecedents and consequences of diverse religious phenomena. So, in addition to the examination of religious beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes among African Americans, they have also explored issues of church-based support networks, religious coping efforts, negative interaction in the church, and the connections and pathways by which religion is linked to physical and mental health outcomes.
Second, they have embraced a standard of methodological rigor in their research that has moved the field beyond a focus on simple bivariate associations to explore the combined and independent effects of a variety of personal, social, and situational factors on religious phenomena. Because much of this work has been conducted using nationally representative samples of African Americans, their results complement and enhance prior efforts that have focused primarily on particular geographic localities and religious communities. This approach has uncovered both important commonalities and differences in religious experience across various segments of the African American population, revealing that while religion and its institutions are indeed important for African Americans, there is significant variability in religious expression on the basis of factors such as age, gender, and region.
Third, they have situated their research questions and the interpretation of study findings within the context of the lived experiences of African Americans. This is most evident in the present volume, which incorporates information from a series of focus group discussions with African American adults (“Appraisals of Religiosity, Coping and Church Support”) about issues and concerns that have been the subject of theoretical speculation and survey analysis. In this way, theory and conceptual models of religion and its effects, established survey research findings on religious involvement, and the themes that are identified in the focus group narratives all function to inform and refine one another. This multimethod approach brings several different individual perspectives to bear on these questions, collectively representing the religious lives of African Americans with greater authenticity and nuance.
Finally, over the course of their careers, Taylor, Chatters, and Levin have placed a premium on using their research and writings to engage, encourage, and mentor other scholars and students interested in the empirical investigation of religion and its effects on social, psychological, and health outcomes. Their published work has been cited and read extensively by researchers, students, and clergy who are committed to understanding the [Page xiv]nature and meaning of religion for African Americans. The value of the present volume will be evident in its ability to reach a diverse audience of researchers, practitioners, and students in the social and behavioral science disciplines, the health and social welfare professions, graduate seminary programs, and members of the clergy. This book will provide each of these groups with the clear and indisputable message that religion and its effects on social, psychological, and health factors profoundly influences the individual and family lives of African Americans.—Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology Director, Program for Research on Black Americans Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research Director, Center for Afro-American and African Studies The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
We have been fortunate to have a number of individuals, groups, and organizations that have been important in supporting the development of this volume. The Program for Research on Black Americans has been a constant source of support and encouragement for our research efforts described in this book. We are especially appreciative of Dr. James S. Jackson, Director of the PRBA, for his constant encouragement and support in this and other scholarly efforts. Special thanks to Dr. Susan Frazier-Kouassi for her friendship and support in our efforts.
We would like to thank James S. Jackson, Belinda Tucker, Phillip Bowman, and Gerald Gurin, who had final authority over the content of the National Survey of Black Americans. Their foresight to include an entire section on religious participation was instrumental in fostering the exponential growth of survey research investigations on the role of religion in the lives of Black Americans. We want to thank Debbie Coral for her help with the analysis of the National Survey of American Life, and Myriam Torres, Julie Sweetman, and Carolyn Pappas for their dedicated work on this survey. Drs. Taylor and Chatters also would like to thank many of the senior scholars who provided advice and assistance during the early stages of their careers, including Drs. Lawrence Gary, Harriette McAdoo, Phillip Bowman, Belinda Tucker, Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, and Vickie Mays.
We thank, also, a number of individuals who were involved in the focus group study, “Appraisals of Religiosity, Coping and Church Support,” which forms a portion of the research reported in this book. Thanks to Dr. Karen D. Lincoln, Carol Burrell-Jackson, Phyllis Stillman, and Tamara Middleton, who gave tirelessly to the successful completion of this project. Special thanks to Drs. Harold W. Neighbors and Jacqueline Mattis for their efforts in the development of the focus group protocol, work on the code scheme, and providing critical feedback on research ideas. Additional thanks to Jacquie for her reviews and comments on earlier drafts of portions of the book. Special thanks also to Khari Brown, who assisted in the [Page xvi]focus group study, conducted a major portion of the data analysis, commented on earlier drafts of several chapters, and assisted with the bibliographic search and compilation of references.
Several grants from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Mental Health supported the background research on religious involvement conducted by the authors, as well as the overall development and preparation of this volume. The National Institute on Aging funded the grant, “Church-Based Assistance and Older Blacks” (R01 AG18782), Linda Chatters, Principal Investigator, and Robert Joseph Taylor and Christopher G. Ellison, Co-Principal Investigators. Linda Chatters gratefully acknowledges the support provided to her as Co-Investigator on the NIA grant, “Religion, Health and Aging” (R01 AG 14749), Neal Krause, Principal Investigator. Support was also provided to Robert Joseph Taylor as Co-Investigator with the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research (MCUAAAR) (P30 AG15281), James S. Jackson, Principal Investigator. Data collection for the National Survey of American Life was funded by support from the National Institute on Mental Health grant, “National Survey of African American Mental Health” (U01 MH57716), James S. Jackson, Principal Investigator, Robert Joseph Taylor, Co-Principal Investigator. The development, data collection, and analysis of the focus group study, “Religiosity, Coping and Church Support,” was conducted under the auspices of the program project grant “African American Mental Health Research Program” (PO1 MH58565), James Jackson, Principal Investigator. Robert Joseph Taylor was the Principal Investigator of the focus group study, and Linda Chatters, Jacqueline Mattis, and Harold Neighbors were Co-Principal Investigators. We especially appreciate the encouragement and support of Dr. Emeline Otey of the National Institute of Mental Health for her work with the African American Mental Health Research Program and Dr. Sid Stahl of the National Institute on Aging and his work with the Michigan Center for Urban African American Research (MCUAAR) at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.
Robert Joseph Taylor and Linda Chatters give special thanks to their children, Harry Owen Chatters Taylor and Mary Louise Chatters Taylor, for graciously accepting the fact that for several very intense months, all of life seemed to revolve around “the book.” Preserving the appropriate balance between family and work life has required that we constantly review our priorities and values and our sense of what is really important in life. We hope that we have shown, by example, that love and conscious and committed involvement in family life enrich and give meaning to work. Jeff Levin wishes to thank his wife and partner, Lea Steele Levin, for all of her love and support as he focused his energies on completing this project.[Page xvii]
We would like to thank the women and men who comprised the corps of interviewers and who worked diligently to collect the data that have provided the basis for this research. Interviewing is an extremely difficult profession that requires perseverance and methodological rigor. Interviewers spend a considerable amount of time in the home of a person whom they have never met, and interview respondents under sometimes less-than-ideal circumstances. Finally, we are especially indebted to the African American men and women who participated as respondents in the various data collection efforts that form the basis of this book. Respondents in the National Survey of Black Americans, the subsequent waves of data collection from the initial study, and the new National Survey of American Lives have made an immense contribution to social science knowledge on religion among this population group. Similarly, the participants in the focus group study, “Appraisals of Religiosity, Coping and Church Support,” provided a unique and unparalleled portrait of the ways in which religion influences various aspects of life for African Americans. In participating in the study, they entrusted us with their innermost thoughts and feelings about the role of religion in their lives. We felt it was our personal and professional duty and responsibility to relate their stories with honesty, integrity, and dignity. We hope that we have done so. To all of our respondents and interviewers we extend our deep and sincere appreciation.[Page xviii]
Appendix A: Data Sources[Page 239]
This book represents an integration of research findings from studies involving both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data are taken from eight (8) national surveys of the American population. The qualitative data are from a focus group study of African American men and women. Except for the Monitoring the Future Survey, which is based on high school seniors, all of the study samples consist of adults. Six of the national data sets and the qualitative data set were collected under the auspices of the same social science organization (the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan). The Program for Research on Black Americans at the Institute for Social Research collected the majority of the data reported here (Drs. Taylor and Chatters have been members of PRBA for 25 years). Data from the General Social Surveys were collected by the National Opinion Research Center (the University of Chicago). These data sets are described below.Quantitative DataNational Survey of Black Americans (NSBA)
The National Survey of Black Americans is based on a nationally representative cross-section sample of the adult (18 years and older) black population living in the continental United States. The NSBA was conducted by the Program for Research on Black Americans at the Institute for Social Research of the University of Michigan. The NSBA sample was drawn through a multistage, area-probability procedure that ensured that each black household had an equal likelihood of being selected. Seventy-six primary sampling units were selected for interviewing and, within these areas, smaller [Page 240]geographical clusters were then randomly selected. Professionally trained interviewers then visited each cluster in order to identify each habitable, occupied household, using special screening procedures developed to locate black homes. Within each selected black occupied household, one member was randomly chosen for interviewing. In all, 2,107 interviews were completed in 1979 and 1980, which represented a response rate of 69%. To date, the NSBA remains the most comprehensive survey on black American life, with more than 2,000 items covering a variety of issues. Of particular note is the special emphasis on the role of religion and the church in the lives of black Americans, church and family members as sources of informal social support, as well as numerous measures of health, well-being, and other psychosocial constructs.Three Generation Family Study (TGFS)
In conjunction with the NSBA study, the Three Generation Family Study (TGFS), a national study of three-generational families, was conducted in 1979 and 1980. Respondents in the NSBA study were asked a series of questions to determine if they were members of three-generational families. If a respondent was a member of at least a three-generation family, then either the respondent's parent/child, grandparent/parent, or child/grandchild (depending upon the nature of the three-generation family) was interviewed. In addition, the original NSBA respondent was reinterviewed. In sum, a family member in each generation was interviewed in the TGFS. The original respondent received the reinterview questionnaire, while the respondent's two family members (parent/child, grandparent/parent, or child/grandchild) received the three-generation questionnaire. The TGFS yielded a total of 2,497 interviews. Of this total, there were 510 complete three-generation triads.National Survey of Black Americans Panel Study
The original respondents of the NSBA were reinterviewed both in 1987–1988 and 1988–1989. Since the cost of locating the original 2,107 respondents and conducting face-to-face interviews was prohibitive, a telephone follow-up method was chosen. Tracking began in August 1987 and continued through the completion of interviewing in September 1988. Approximately 57% (1,210) of the original respondents were located and an interview attempted. Approximately 7% were thought to be deceased and another 34% either had no telephone and/or their whereabouts were unknown to relatives. Only 2% refused to be involved at the initial [Page 241]tracking stage. Out of the total of 1,210 respondents, 82% (951) agreed and participated in an interview. Only 77 (6.4%) refused to be interviewed. The remainder were hospitalized or otherwise physically or cognitively unable to be interviewed during the field period.
In 1988–1989 (Wave 3), interviews were attempted on all 951 respondents located and interviewed in 1987–1988. A total of 83.4% (793) of the respondents agreed to a re-interview. Only 6.1% (58) refused to be interviewed. Approximately 11 (1.2%) were deceased and 49 (4.2%) were physically or mentally unable to be interviewed. A total of 40 (4.2%) were lost to follow-up. Interviewing was completed in March 1989.
Overall, the results of the tracking and interviewing procedures were highly successful. After an 8-year period, only 34% of all 2,107 original respondents were lost to tracking. The remainder (66%) were located and accounted for. Once found, respondents were extremely cooperative, with an average of 83% participating over the two waves of re-interviewing. Finally, a fourth wave of the NSBA was collected in 1992. Of the 779 respondents recontacted, 659 were interviewed, which represents a response rate of 84%. While this is a study of noninstitutionalized African American adults, tracking information did not allow for the exclusion from the sampling frame of original respondents who had since entered an institution. This has led to an underestimated response rate.
A comparison of the respondents in Wave 1 with the nonrespondents in Waves 2, 3, and 4 reveals that respondents are more likely to own their own homes, be employed, be women, have more years of education, and to be slightly older. These differences are consistent with other panel studies in which renters, men, and younger respondents have higher rates of nonparticipation in later waves. In addition, nonrespondents in the later waves had lower levels of receiving church support than respondents (Taylor, Chatters, & Jackson, 1997). Although these differences were notable, they did not exceed 10%.1984 National Black Election Survey
The 1984 National Black Election Survey (NBES) was conducted by the Program for Research on Black Americans at the Institute for Social Research. This survey follows the design of the National Election Survey, which is also collected at the Institute for Social Research. The NBES is based on a national probability sample. The sample was drawn using random digit dialing methods with a two-stage cluster design. Respondents were contacted both before and after the 1984 November presidential election. The questions used in this analysis are from the preelection survey, [Page 242]which had a sample size of 1,151 black adults of voting age (see Gurin, Hatchett, & Jackson, 1989, for a more detailed discussion of the sample).National Survey of American Life
The National Survey of American Life: Coping with Stress in the 21st Century (NSAL) is a new data collection by the Program for Research on Black Americans at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. The fieldwork for the study was done by the Institute for Social Research's Survey Research Center, in cooperation with the Program for Research on Black Americans. This study is sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. James S. Jackson is the Principal Investigator of this study, and Drs. Harold W. Neighbors, Robert Joseph Taylor, and David Williams are Co-Principal Investigators. The NSAL focuses on the physical, emotional, mental, structural, and economic conditions of African Americans, with a major emphasis on mental health and mental illness. As of this writing, the study has recently completed its field period, and data management and cleaning are currently underway. Consequently, only percentage distributions for variables are reported in this volume.
The sample of the NSAL consists of 64 primary sampling units (PSUs). Fifty-six of these primary areas overlap substantially with existing Survey Research Center's National Sample primary areas. The remaining eight primary areas were chosen from the South in order for the sample to represent African Americans in the proportion in which they are distributed nationally. Measures of size based on African American occupied housing units, rather than total occupied housing units, were used for sample selection of these 64 primary sampling units. From the 64 primary sampling units, 530 segments (blocks or block groups) were selected with probabilities proportional to the size of the African American population.
As of this writing, a total of 6,193 face-to-face interviews were conducted with persons aged 18 or older, including 3,583 African Americans, 1,006 non-Hispanic whites, and, for the first time in a national survey, 1,604 blacks of Caribbean descent. The interviews were all face to face and conducted within respondents' homes. The data collection was conducted from 2001 to 2003. Respondents were compensated for their time.Americans' Changing Lives (ACL)
The Americans' Changing Lives (ACL) study is the result of the collaborative efforts of a group of investigators concerned with the nature and consequences of participation in productive activities in adulthood. Five separate [Page 243]studies, with similar foci and a shared data collection, were organized under the auspices of a National Institute on Aging Program Project, Productive Activity, Stress, and Health in Middle and Later Life. One of the five investigations was concerned with the influence of sociocultural factors on participation in productive activities among older Americans. Its specific focus was on investigating the manner in which sociocultural conditions influenced the participation of black adults in productive behaviors. James House was the PI of this study.
The data for this book were taken from the first wave of the ACL study, which had a sample of 3,617 adults, including 1,174 black adults 25 years of age and older. The ACL oversamples older blacks and black adults. The oversample for these groups provides for greater statistical power equivalent to that of a larger cross-section sample of the adult population.NORC General Social Survey (GSS)
The National Data Program for the Social Sciences conducts the annual General Social Survey (GSS) for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The GSS is not a panel study, but rather a series of cross-sectional studies providing data on a wide spectrum of social indicators. The content of the GSS is fairly stable over time, although various items are added or deleted each year. Religiosity, defined in a broad sense, has historically been a central focus of GSS data collection efforts and, in particular years, numerous religion variables have been included. More important, several key indicators of religiosity (e.g., denomination, religious attendance) are available in every GSS since 1972. Assessments of common non-organizational religious activities, subjective indicators of religiosity and religious belief scales, often appear in the GSS. The 1998 General Social Survey contains a major section on religious participation that was written by a National Institute on Aging workgroup (Fetzer Institute/National Institute on Aging, 1999). The number of respondents who completed the 1998 NIA/Fetzer module on religious participation was 1,445.
Unfortunately, one of the limitations of the GSS is that only about 150 black respondents are typically included in each year of the study. Prior experience in conducting research on the black population has demonstrated that it is extremely expensive to reach some segments of this group, particularly respondents who reside in inner-city neighborhoods in large urban areas and large-scale housing projects. Typically, surveys of the general population fail to spend the necessary resources to obtain interviews from this group. As a result, the black respondents who participate in the GSS (and most surveys of the general population) are those who are more [Page 244]accessible and easier to interview. This is somewhat understandable given that the costs associated with interviewing a black respondent in larger urban areas (e.g., New York, Chicago) are 3 to 10 times more than an interview with a white middle-class respondent. GSS data from several years can be pooled to create a combined data set with larger numbers of black respondents. However, this does not correct the aforementioned problems with respect to sample representativeness. Bearing these limitations in mind, however, the GSS remains an important source of data for examining religious participation.1996 Monitoring the Future (MTF)
The Monitoring the Future Survey has been conducted annually with high school seniors since 1975. It is a nationally representative survey that explores changes in attitudes and behaviors of high school seniors. Although the major focus of MTF is adolescent drug use, other topics are examined as well, including academic achievement and parental involvement. Three questions are included on religion. After 1996, MTF does not collect data on religion in the state of California. Consequently, we utilized the 1996 MTF data for this book. The sample size of the 1996 survey is 14,823, with 2,221 black respondents (see Smith, Denton, Faris, & Regnerus, 2002, and Wallace & Forman, 1998, for a detailed discussion of this sample).Qualitative DataAppraisals of Religiosity, Coping and Church Support
The qualitative analysis is based on the results of a focus group study of religion and mental health among African Americans (“Appraisals of Religiosity, Coping and Church Support”). This study was conducted by the Program for Research on Black Americans, University of Michigan. Robert Joseph Taylor was the Principal Investigator and Linda Chatters, Jacqueline S. Mattis, and Harold W. Neighbors were Co-Principal Investigators. The study was conducted in 1999 and participants were recruited from Southeastern Michigan.
A total of 13 focus groups were conducted; 10 groups consisted of persons in the age range of 18 to 54 years (five of which were women and the other five men). The three remaining groups consisted of individuals who were at least 55 years of age: two groups of older women and one group of [Page 245]older men. In total, 78 people participated in the focus group study, evenly split between women and men.
Selection criteria for the study required that participants self-identified as Christian and indicated a minimum level of religious sentiment. The decision to focus on only adherents of the Christian faith was based on several considerations. First, the vast majority of African Americans identify as Christians as reflected in the research and writing on religious affiliation in this group. Second, there was a compelling need to establish a common religious background and a baseline level of religious sentiment within the group. It was thought that a shared religious framework would facilitate the overall group process and avoid potential distractions arising from major differences of opinion concerning religious faith and belief (e.g., Christian vs. Muslim) and the relevance of religion (persons who are very religious vs. those who are agnostic or atheist) for group members. Finally, pastors, ministers, and their spouses were excluded from the study so that focus group members could feel free to express their opinions among a group of peers without the potential for bias due to the presence of a religious authority figure.
The study investigators acted as the focus group facilitators for all of the groups. Doctoral-level staff who had extensive experience in conducting focus groups trained the facilitators. Facilitators participated in several practice focus groups and pretests of the focus group protocol in order to ensure a high level of consistency in procedures across each of the focus groups. Facilitators were gender-matched to appropriate focus groups; all facilitators were African American. Focus groups lasted between 1½ and 2 hours, and focus group members were compensated $35 for their participation.
The main focus of this study was to explore the relationship between religion and mental health among African Americans. The protocol covered the following content areas: religious activities (including church attendance, reading religious materials, and watching/listening to religious programming), prayer, the use of prayer as a form of coping with serious life problems, the use of church members as a source of informal social support, negative social interactions among church members, and the use of pastors and ministers for help when dealing with a serious personal problem.
This study possesses the usual limitations found in many qualitative investigations. First, since the study is not based on a probability sample, the results cannot be generalized to the broader population. Second, some level of bias occurs in the recruitment and selection of the focus group participants. That is, people who are religious are more likely to volunteer to take part in a study on religious participation. These limitations are less of a [Page 246]concern in the present volume because the focus group study is not the sole source of data on these topics, but one of several sources of information that are used. Further, the stated purposes in using the focus group information were to assist in the interpretation of extant survey findings and to suggest new areas and topics for inquiry. Finally, we recognize that because the focus group format involves a group process, there are undetermined social influences in operation that may affect the views and opinions expressed by individual participants.
It is important to note that, in some cases, statements made by the focus group participants and presented here in the book have been altered slightly for greater ease of understanding. None of the substance and meaning of participants' remarks, however, have been changed. Phrases that are used repeatedly in conversational speech, such as “you know,” “um,” and “ah,” were either reduced in number or deleted from the passages. Sometimes phrases were omitted because the speaker changed thoughts in mid-sentence. The following quote is an example of the changes that were made. The first quote is taken verbatim from the transcripts, while the second, edited version shows how it was altered slightly.
They really did and they, you know, the church, you know, I don't have a fear about going when I have a problem, because when I don't have a problem I go and when I don't have a problem I pay my tithes and my offering and when I try to do the things that I know that is, you know, right to do and, you know. Not to say that, okay I feel like they owe me because I have been doing, you know, doing what I'm supposed to be, you know. But if I, you know, if I'm a good member in standing there and they, you know, do something for me, certainly I would accept it if I'm in need, you know. A lot of people probably say, I wouldn't take from the church, I wouldn't, you know, accept that or whatever, but you know, if you're in need then you need to be able to, you know, like I said earlier, you know, you can miss your blessing because you don't know when God is actually speaking. God is saying, you know, learn to receive, you know. Especially for people who are givers, they have a hard time receiving and I'm certainly a giver, you know, and and for me receiving has really never been a real problem. You know, a lot of people say well, I'm a giver and I don't like to receive or I have a problem receiving.
I don't have a fear about going when I have a problem, because when I don't have a problem I pay my tithes and my offering and I try to do [Page 247]the things that I know is right to do. Not to say that I feel like they owe me because I have been doing what I'm supposed to be. But if I'm a good member in standing there and they do something for me, certainly I would accept it if I'm in need. A lot of people probably say, I wouldn't take from the church, I wouldn't accept that or whatever, but if you're in need you can miss your blessing because you don't know when God is actually speaking. God is saying learn to receive. Especially for people who are givers, they have a hard time receiving and I'm certainly a giver and for me receiving has really never been a real problem. A lot of people say well, I'm a giver and I don't like to receive or I have a problem receiving.
Although the second version is condensed, the substance of the response is unchanged. The major difference is that the 17 instances in which the respondent said “you know” were removed.[Page 248]
Appendix B: Multivariate Tables[Page 249][Page 250]Table B.1 Logistic Regression of Demographic Variables on Religious Artifacts in the Home (NSBA)a[Page 251]Table B.2 Regression of Demographic Variables on Closeness to Religious Blacks (NSBA)a[Page 252]Table B.3 Regression Analysis of Demographic Variables on Frequency of Prayer (NSBAa)
Recommended Reading and Resource Guide[Page 253]
Research and writing on the topic of religion and African American life has seen tremendous expansion over the past several years. The following “Recommended Reading and Resource Guide” is a compilation of articles, books, and reports that are considered pivotal to this body of literature. For the most part, items listed in the Guide are focused on the religious life of African Americans as reflected in empirical survey research investigations. However, we also cite readings and resources on the general population that provide relevant background information or are considered to be particularly critical explorations of an issue. In addition, a number of authoritative compilations and encyclopedias on these topics are reviewed. The Guide is organized around the book's chapters and provides either a narrative description of key research findings or a brief synopsis of individual works. A list of works cited follows each section.Chapter 2: Religious Participation
There are a number of excellent social historical analyses of African American religious traditions. We cite Lincoln and Mamiya's (1990) classic work for its thorough review of existing models of black religious participation and its contextual analysis (e.g., historical, political, economic) of the African American church. Coupled with this is a description and report from their survey of black clergy and black churches of the seven major historical black denominations. Topics within the book include discussions of the historical development of black Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal denominations and critical analyses of several prominent issues facing the [Page 254]Black Church (e.g., the role of women, economics and the Black Church, urban churches, the civil rights movement). The reader is also referred to other prior works by C. Eric Lincoln, which are considered classics in the field. In addition, readers are referred to the seminal works of James Cone on black theology (e.g., 1997), other historical accounts of black churches (e.g., Raboteau, 2001; Wilmore, 1998), and womanist/feminist analyses of the role of women in the Black Church (Dodson, 2002; Gilkes, 2000).
Billingsley's (1999) recent volume provides in-depth case studies and historical accounts of a number of black churches that were initially established in the antebellum South (located primarily in Savannah, Georgia and Richmond, Virginia). The book also presents findings from a survey of black churches, with particular attention to issues of how churches come to define their distinctive mission (e.g., activism, social justice, personal salvation) and the means by which “activist” churches enact their role within the church and surrounding communities.
The Fetzer Institute/National Institute on Aging Report, Multidimensional Measurement of Religiousness/Spirituality for Use in Health Research, is a collaboration between the Fetzer Institute (Kalamazoo, Michigan) and the National Institute on Aging. This volume reflects the contributions of a working group of leading scholars and researchers (among whom Levin is included) on religious involvement and its association with health. Twelve papers addressing various aspects of religious involvement are provided that describe background literature, conceptual and methodological issues, measurement approaches, proposed theoretical linkages to health outcomes, and recommended items for use in research on religion-health associations. The domains of religiousness/spirituality that are assessed include organizational religiousness, private religious practices, religious/spiritual coping, religious support, religious preference, and forgiveness, among others. Given the range of topics represented in the Fetzer/NIA report, it is a valuable resource for several other chapters in this book (e.g., religious participation, support from church members).
Finally, the Encyclopedia of African American Religions (Murphy, Melton, & Ward, 1993) is an indispensable resource for information concerning the development of the historical black denominations and churches, as well as the full spectrum of religious traditions within United States (e.g., Muslim, Nation of Islam, Vodou). Entries include brief biographies of both famous and lesser-known religious figures and church officials, as well as accounts of the development and growth of individual churches (e.g., Abyssinian Baptist Church, Harlem, New York). The volume is meticulously referenced and authoritative in its coverage.[Page 255]Selected References1999). Mighty like a river: The Black Church and social reform. New York: Oxford University Press.(1997). God of the oppressed. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.(2002). Engendering church. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.(Fetzer Institute/NIA. (1999). Multidimensional measurement of religiousness/spirituality for use in health research. Kalamazoo, MI: John E. Fetzer.2000). If it wasn't for the women …: Black women's experience and womanist culture in church and community. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.(1990). The Black Church in the African American experience. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.(1993). Encyclopedia of African American religions. New York: Garland.(2001). Canaan land: A religious history of African Americans. New York: Oxford University Press.(1998). Black religion and black radicalism: An interpretation of the religious history of African Americans ((3rd ed.). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.Chapter 3: Prayer
The volume by Poloma and Gallup (1991) is the most thorough social science investigation of prayer to date. The book is based on results of a 1988 Gallup Poll that asked a series of detailed questions on prayer. This is particularly noteworthy because very few surveys contain any items on religious participation and, of those that do, typically only two or three questions address the issue of prayer. The book examines the demographic correlates of prayer and the relationship between prayer and forgiveness, life satisfaction, and political activism. One limitation of the book is that insufficient attention is paid to racial differences and to prayer among minority groups.
Research focusing on the topics of prayer and religious coping, health effects of prayer, clinical applications of prayer, and prayer and its relation to physical and mental health outcomes are discussed throughout Koenig, McCullough, and Larson's Handbook of Religion and Health. Finally, Krause et al.'s (2000) article on use of the focus group methodology to study prayer among older adults highlights several important ideas regarding the nature, timing, and operation of prayer and distinctions between individual and group prayer. Further, findings from the focus group study dispute the seeming passivity of prayer as a means of coping with life problems.[Page 256]Selected References2001). Handbook of religion and health. New York: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195118667.001.0001(2000). Using focus groups to explore the nature of prayer in late life. Journal of Aging Studies, 14(2), 191–212. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0890-4065%2800%2980011-0(1991). Varieties of prayer. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International.(Chapter 4: Prayer as Coping
Pargament's (1997) is the definitive book on religious coping. It begins by developing and elaborating working definitions of the constructs of religion and coping and then goes on to demonstrate how these two constructs are integrated. The book presents a detailed overview of Pargament's own program of research on how religion helps people cope with problems and in what situations that religious coping may be harmful to physical and mental health. In addition, the book provides a thorough review of research and perspectives on religion and coping, as well as thoughtful discussions of the clinical applications of this body of research.
Ellison and Taylor's (1996) article on religious coping explores the social and situational antecedents of the use of prayer as a coping behavior within a national sample of African Americans. The article provides a useful review of theoretical arguments and empirical evidence for the use of prayer as coping across different categories of personal problems and social location factors, as well as varying levels of religiosity and social and psychological resources. Theoretical arguments linking these factors with religious coping are developed and tested. The findings of this paper are discussed in Chapter 3.
Krause (1998) investigated the relationships among stress, religious coping and mortality using data from a national survey of older adults. He finds that religious coping offsets the effects of stress in highly valued roles on mortality. The impact of religious coping, however, is only significant for those adults with less educational attainment. This paper provides an excellent discussion of why religious coping may assist some people in dealing with adversity.Selected References1996). Turning to prayer: Religious coping among black Americans. Review of Religious Research, 38, 111–131. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3512336([Page 257]1998). Stressors in highly valued roles, religious coping, and mortality. Psychology and Aging, 13, 242–255. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0882-79126.96.36.199(1997). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research and practice. New York: Guilford.(Chapter 5: Use of Ministers
Neighbors and Jackson's (1996) edited book on mental health issues within the African American population provides an excellent overview of many issues of concern to blacks and mental health (e.g., coping with personal problems, help-seeking behaviors, mental health service use). Although the book does not address religion and mental health, it does address issues of stress, coping and formal and informal help seeking. The article by Neighbors, Musick, and Williams (1998) is one of a handful of studies that specifically examines reports of soliciting assistance from the clergy in response to serious personal problems. The article provides a useful review of related background work addressing the use of help-seeking in a religious context and poses several important questions about how and under what circumstances assistance from clergy might serve to facilitate the use of formal mental health services.Selected References1996). Mental health in black America. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.(1998). The African American minister: Bridge or barrier to mental health care?Health Education and Behavior, 25, 759–777. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/109019819802500606(Chapter 6: Social Support
Chatters et al. (2002) investigates sociodemographic and family and church factors as correlates of support from family and church members among a representative sample of African Americans. Overall, patterns of family and church support indicate that slightly more than half of respondents receive assistance from both family and church networks, one quarter receive assistance from family only, and roughly equal percentages (9%) either receive help from church members only or do not receive help from either group. Findings from multinomial logistic regression analysis indicated significant age, gender, marital, and parental status differences in patterns of support from family and church. Perceptions of family closeness, degree of interaction [Page 258]with family, and overall levels of participation in church activities were associated with distinctive patterns of assistance.
Taylor et al. (1997) examined change, over time, in selected characteristics of the family, friend, and church support networks of 17- to 102-year-old black Americans. Data from Waves 1 and 2 and Waves 1 and 4 from the Panel Study of the National Survey of Black Americans were compared. In addition to examining change in network involvement, the analysis also assesses the degree to which support network involvement remains stable over time. Two independent variables (i.e., gender, age) and seven dependent variables (i.e., family interaction, family support, family closeness, family satisfaction, friendship interaction, presence of a best friend, church support) are examined. Overall findings indicate that family, church, and friend network involvement among black Americans is consistent and viable. Despite important changes in black family structure that have occurred over the past 30 years, black adults are well integrated within important social networks. Black adults' involvement in church-based support networks was not as widespread as noted previously, although fully half of all respondents reported consistent use of these networks over time.
Krause's (2002) recent analysis and test of a conceptual model of church-based social support among older adults addresses a number of important questions regarding the presence and nature of race differences in the associations between support and health outcomes. In addition to demonstrating that older blacks have higher levels of religious involvement and are more likely to experience the health benefits of religious involvement than are older whites, these findings describe the pathways through which social support impacts health. This study advances the literature on religion-health connections by testing a theoretically derived model of religion's impact on health, with an explicit investigation of the potential influence of race on these associations.Selected References2002). Patterns of informal support from family and church members among African Americans. Journal of Black Studies, 33(1), 66–85. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/002193470203300104(2002). Church-based social support and health in old age: Variations by race. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 57B, S332–S347.(1997). Changes over time in support network involvement among black Americans. In R. J.Taylor, J. S.Jackson, & L. M.Chatters (Eds.), Family life in black America (pp. 293–316). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.([Page 259]Chapter 7: Negative Interaction
Rook's (1984) pioneering work is the foundation of a growing body of literature on the negative side of social relationships. This particular study examined the influence of positive (e.g., social support) and negative (e.g., conflict) interaction on psychological well-being. Findings that negative interactions were better predictors of well-being compared to positive interactions was important for shifting the focus of the social support literature to include the negative side of social relations. Since this work, the literature on the role of social support in promoting health has taken a more balanced approach to include the costs and benefits of social relationships.
Using focus group data from older black and white adults, Krause et al. (2000) provides an excellent overview of various sources of interpersonal conflict that may arise within church settings. The article reviews current theory and research concerning the linkages between the experience of negative interaction and its impact on health. Comments from several focus groups of older black and white adults explore interpersonal conflict among church members, conflict between church members and their pastors, and conflict over church doctrine. In addition, focus group comments explore how respondents cope with negative interactions involving church members.
Lincoln (2000) provides an excellent in-depth review of research investigating the impact of negative interaction on psychological well-being. In particular, the article critically reviews 28 studies that investigate the relationship between social support, negative social interaction, and their simultaneous effects on psychological well-being. The studies are grouped according to three conceptual models of the effects of social interaction: the additive effects model, the moderator model, and the domain specific model.Selected References2000). Negative interaction in the church: Insights from focus groups with older adults. Review of Religious Research, 41(4), 510–533. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3512318(2000). Social support, negative social interactions, and psychological well-being. Social Service Review, 74(2), 231–252. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/514478(1984). The negative side of social interaction: Impact on psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 1097–1108. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.527([Page 260]Chapter 8: Physical Health
Several published reviews have appeared in recent years that attempt to summarize the impact of religion, broadly defined, on health-related outcomes. Most of these reviews include studies of African Americans or of black-white differences in religion-health associations, although not all of them explicitly discuss racial identity or its influence on how religion affects health.
The most thorough review articles on this topic were produced by the authors of this book. A recent summary by Chatters (2000) appeared in the authoritative Annual Review of Public Health. In this chapter-length overview, which includes 185 references, detailed information is provided that (a) summarizes how religion has been conceptualized and assessed in health-related research; (b) reviews studies of the impact of religion on health outcomes; (c) reviews additional scientific studies of religious effects on well-being, lifestyle behaviors, and health care use, and of religious coping; (d) discusses a variety of theoretical models of religion and health, including several proposed mediating factors; (e) lists both positive and negative aspects of religious participation; (f) offers reflection on measurement, methodological, ethical, and practice-related issues; and (g) critiques the role that race and ethnicity have played in this literature. An earlier and briefer review (Levin, Chatters, Ellison, & Taylor, 1996) covered similar ground but with more attention to summarizing findings from existing literature reviews and to detailing the potential importance of religious congregations for large-scale public-health programming.
Over the past decade, a couple dozen books have appeared that cover the topic of religion, spirituality, and health. Most purport to offer some kind of overview of research, but they vary in how well they cover the field. It is apparent that the authors of many of the books on the market, both academic and popular, are not entirely familiar with the scope and breadth of research and theory that exists, nor do they possess the requisite methodological background to interpret empirical findings properly. In contrast, three books provide reliable summary overviews of existing research and accurately discuss the meaning and implications of study findings.
The Handbook of Religion and Health (Koenig, McCullough, & Larson, 2001) is an encyclopedic, 700-page summary of existing research on religious factors in physical and mental health and health services use. Approximately 1,600 scholarly sources are referenced, including citation of about 1,200 empirical studies of religion's impact on a couple dozen or so categories of health- or quality-of-life-related outcomes. These include separate chapters on heart disease, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, [Page 261]immune system functioning, cancer, mortality, disability, pain and somatic symptoms, and health behaviors. Implications for both health and religious professionals are discussed. The book is capped off by a 75-page table that provides details on religion and health studies, listed chronologically and by the outcome under investigation.
The same team was involved in writing and editing a monograph sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation (Larson, Swyers, & McCullough, 1998). This document provides summary reports prepared by respective panels of experts convened over the course of three meetings in the middle 1990s. More than 70 individuals were invited to participate, and they produced reviews and recommendations related to physical and mental health, addictions, neuroscience, and intervention research. The list of participants did not include any of the authors of the present book nor Brown and Gary or their associates. This monograph, and the Handbook, thus have little to say about African Americans or about race or ethnicity, in general. Still, both books provide useful summaries of existing work in this field.
The best introduction and summary of the religion and health field is the popular book God, Faith, and Health (Levin, 2001). Written for a general audience, but including nearly 25 pages of scholarly references, this book summarizes evidence linking dimensions of religiousness to physical and mental health. Each chapter examines a respective type of spiritual expression (religious affiliation, fellowship, worship and prayer, beliefs, faith, mystical states of consciousness), and, after summarizing results of prominent studies, focuses on psychosocial factors that help to explain that chapter's religion-health association (healthy behavior, social support, positive emotions, healthy beliefs, salutary thoughts, psychophysiology). Each chapter also contains a case report, personal reflections, and a list of questions for readers to ponder. God, Faith, and Health emphasizes studies by members of the research team that wrote the present book, nearly all of which make use of samples of African-American or other minority-group respondents or emphasize racial differences.Selected References2000). Religion and health: Public health research and practice. Annual Review of Public Health, 21, 335–367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.publhealth.21.1.335(2001). Handbook of religion and health. New York: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195118667.001.0001(1998). Scientific research on spirituality and health: A consensus report. Sponsored by the John M. Templeton Foundation. Rockville, MD: National Institute for Healthcare Research.([Page 262]2001). God, faith, and health: Exploring the spirituality-healing connection. New York: John Wiley.(1996). Religious involvement, health outcomes, and public health practice. Current Issues in Public Health, 2, 220–225.(Chapter 9: Mental Health and Well-Being
As with physical health, the past decade has seen an increase in scholarly interest in the influence of religion on mental health and well-being. Published literature reviews and academic books exist but not as much popular writing as for physical health. Much of this work does not focus on summarizing results of empirical research studies but rather on discussing theoretical or conceptual issues of interest to psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, or pastoral counselors. Good reviews of published research can be found, however, including overviews of work involving African Americans.
A fine resource is Koenig's (1998) Handbook of Religion and Mental Health. This is an edited volume of reviews by prominent scientists and clinicians and covers outcomes such as personality, neuropsychology, coping, depression, anxiety, psychosis, and addiction. Notable, too, are chapters that provide reflections on the relationship between religion and mental health from the perspectives of several major faith traditions (Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Unity, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim). A key chapter in the Handbook is a review of empirical studies of religion and mental health, written by two of the authors of the present book (Levin & Chatters, 1998). This chapter also explores in great detail a variety of proposed salutogenic mechanisms for a positive religion–mental-health relationship. Another important contribution is an extensive theoretical section that includes (a) a review of theoretical perspectives on religion and mental health; (b) an outline of theoretical frameworks from sociology, psychiatry, and theology that help to interpret the impact of religion on mental health; and (c) proposal of five theoretical models positing precisely how religion, health, mental illness, and mediating factors might impact on each other.
Two other reviews, both by authors of the present book, provide reviews of academic writing on religion and dimensions of psychological well-being. In the first edition of the authoritative Aging, Spirituality, and Religion: A Handbook, the chapter on religion and well-being (Levin & Tobin, 1995) prefaced its discussion of religion with detailed discussions of the conceptual [Page 263]boundaries of the psychological well-being construct as well as its major determinants. Foremost among those described were race, age, socioeconomic status, and health. In Levin's (1994) edited book, Religion in Aging and Health: Theoretical Foundations and Methodological Frontiers, Chatters and Taylor (1994) provide a comprehensive overview of all existing empirical research on religious involvement in older African Americans. This chapter highlights the work of the present research team, including studies of social and health correlates and outcomes. Since that chapter was written, about a decade ago, much more work has been done, especially by our team. The present book is, in a sense, an update and expansion of this early chapter.Selected References[Page 264]1994). Religious involvement among older African Americans. In J. S.Levin (Ed.), Religion in aging and health: Theoretical foundations and methodological frontiers (pp. 196–230). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.(Koenig, H. G. (Ed.). (1998). Handbook of religion and mental health. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Levin, J. S. (Ed.). (1994). Religion in aging and health: Theoretical foundations and methodological frontiers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.1998). Research on religion and mental health: An overview of empirical findings and theoretical issues. In H. G.Koenig (Ed.), Handbook of religion and mental health (pp. 33–50). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-012417645-4/50070-5(1995). Religion and psychological well-being. In M. A.Kimble, S. H.McFadden, J. W.Ellor, & J. J.Seeber (Eds.), Aging, spirituality, and religion: A handbook (pp. 30–46). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.(
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