Spirituality in young adults at risk

Date of Completion

January 1999


Religion, General|Psychology, Clinical




The literature largely supports the association between certain types of religiosity and low scores on measures of anxiety and depression. Specifically, intrinsic religiosity, a collaborative religious problem-solving style, and a nurturing concept of God (e.g., loving and merciful images) have been examined. This study examined the hypothesis that these types of religiosity would predict lower trauma symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as lower disruptions in cognitive schemas, in young adults who were maltreated as children. An additional hypothesis was that endorsing a punitive concept of God (e.g., cruel and damning images) would be associated with greater trauma symptoms and greater disruptions in cognitive schemas. 370 undergraduates participated in this study. Results partially supported the hypothesis that religiosity would help to protect mental health, based on positive associations between the religiosity variables and schemas about intimacy with others and esteem for others. Participants most strongly endorsing a punitive concept of God reported the highest scores on depression, after controlling for the extent of their childhood maltreatment. Endorsing a punitive concept of God was also associated with disruptions in cognitive schemas, both regarding oneself and regarding others, about safety, trust, esteem, intimacy, and control. Results also supported Pargament's (1997) coping mobilization hypothesis, that when individuals are experiencing the greatest stress (consequently reporting higher symptomatology), they increase their levels of religiosity to cope with their stressors. implications for psychologists and religious helping professionals are discussed in terms of identifying punitive thoughts about God as a “red flag” that signals a need for collaboration between the two professions. ^