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Christian women in IPV relationships: an exploratory study of religious factors.

The decision for women to leave or to stay in an abusive relationship is a slow and complex process. Many factors are evaluated before the victim can decide to leave. These factors may include the presence of children, societal norms about marriage, attachment to the abuser, and economic constraints (see Barnett, 2001; Barnett, Miller-Perrin, & Perrin, 2005; Strube & Barbour, 1983, 1984; Werner-Wilson, Zimmerman, & Whalen, 2000). In addition to the above reasons, for Christian women, religious factors may play an pivotal role in whether and how women leave abusive relationships, as well as whether they receive sufficient support to make a transition.

Many Christian women reported seeking church community and religious leaders' guidance in the process of leaving an abusive relationship (Beaman-Hall & Nason-Clark, 1997). Existing literature has shown that women with deep religious beliefs have reported that their religious doctrines and the perceived attitudes from their church communities have been part of their consideration in the process of leaving an abusive relationship (e.g., Ake & Horne, 2003; Giesbrecht & Sevcik, 2000; Knickmeyer, Levitt, Horne, & Bayer, 2003; Merritt-Gray & Wuest, 1995). For instance, Giesbrecht and Sevcik (2000) reported that churches whose doctrines stress wives' loving and obedient submission to their husbands can be a primary barrier to leaving for those battered women. Sleutel (1998) found that religious women who experienced IPV often reported feeling responsible for sustaining the relationship because of the religious beliefs that good Christian women should sacrifice and forgive.

Some researchers have suggested that religious beliefs may be associated with women deciding to stay in an abusive environment (e.g., Burnett, 1996; Foss & Warnke, 2003; Griffin & Maples, 1997; Knickmeyer et al., 2003; Nason-Clark, 2004; Sleutel, 1998). Church leaders may overlook the severity of partner violence by simply viewing the husband's violence as the victim's cross to bear. Therefore, these Christian women who experience IPV may believe that clergymen care less about the women's welfare than about sustaining the marriage. In a qualitative study, the majority of religious leaders regarded marital divorce due to IPV as a last resort; separation or divorce were to be considered only after other measures, such as counseling or religious interventions, had been tried and failed--a process that might act to prolong women's endurance of abusive relationships (see Levitt & Ware, 2006; Ware, Levitt, & Bayer, 2003). In fact, a minority of the Christian leaders in this research reported that they would never condone divorce due to IPV even after other methods and attempts to end the abuse had failed, as their Scripture cites only infidelity and desertion as acceptable grounds for divorce.

In addition to religious beliefs about marriage, perceived attitudes from church communities have been found to strongly influence the process of victims' leaving. For instance, church communities may expect that women forgive, reconcile with or submit to their husbands and may encourage prayer over actions to leave (Giesbrecht & Sevcik, 2000; Nason-Clark, 2004; Sleutel, 1998). Participants in a qualitative research study (Knickmeyer et al., 2003) reported that they received conflicting messages from clergy, their church community, biblical teachings, and their perception about God regarding personal safety and the sanctity of marriage. When their church communities stressed teachings about the sanctity of marriage, submission, and forgiveness (of the batterer) and denied the problems, it created additional dilemmas and difficulties for abused women to leave the relationships. In addition, some women in Knickmeyer's study reported that the need to leave their marriage required leaving their church communities--at times their main support systems--because of the congregational condemnation of divorce.

Furthermore, Griffin and Maples (1997) suggested that religious beliefs may have a stronger influence on women from more conservative Christian denominations than on women from more liberal denominations when determining whether to remain in abusive partnerships. This contrast is because conservative Christians stress the traditional ideology of male domination over women and the importance of marital reconciliation. Indeed, Levitt and Ware (2006) found that more literalist and conservative religious approaches were associated with religious leaders' beliefs that divorce should not be easily accessible for women in IPV marriages due to the sanctity of marriage vows. Evidence from the perspective of both IPV victims and religious leaders has shown that, due to the emphasis on women's subordination to their husbands in some male-dominated, literalist churches, abused women are advised to remain in and pray for the relationship (Foss & Warnke, 2003; Knickmeyer et al., 2003; Levitt & Ware, 2006). When these Christian women from conservative religious affiliations decided to leave the IPV relationships, they often struggled with spiritual guilt because leaving seemed to be not only against the church's teaching about marriage but also against the will of God. Hence, in order for religious women to leave their violent partners, spiritual restructuring of notions of God and religious beliefs were often required (Giesbrecht & Sevcik, 2000; Knickmeyer et al., 2003). The extant literature suggests that religious affiliation status may play a role in remaining in abusive relationships and that there may be pressures upon conservative Christian women to remain in these relationships longer than other Christian women.

In terms of church attendance, previous studies consistently reported that men who attend church regularly were less likely to report engaging in intimate partner violence (Cunradi, Caetano, & Schafer, 2002; Ellison & Anderson, 2001; Ellison, Bartkewski, & Anderson, 1999; Fergusson, Horwood, Kershaw, & Shannon, 1986). For instance, Ellison and Anderson (2001) found that men who attended religious services at least once a week were 50 percent less likely to use physical aggression against their partners than those who were infrequent church attendees. In addition, men who reported that religion was very important to them had lower rates of perpetration of violence (Cunradi et al., 2002). However, men who attend church activities regularly are not immune from engaging in IPV. For instance, Rotunda, Williamson, and Penfold (2004) found nearly one-third of the batterers in their study attended church at least monthly, and approximately 10 percent of batterers attended church several times a week.

Religious Problem-Solving

Because religion can significantly influence religious people's decisions, they often seek spiritual guidance in understanding and resolving problems. Existing literature indicated that faith and religious beliefs in God are integral parts of problem-solving and coping when Christian women faced IPV. For instance, prayer has been reported (Pargament et al., 1988) to be a major coping resource for religious people in the process of selecting solutions to problems. Using data collected from members of a Presbyterian church and a Lutheran church, Pargament et al. (1988) reported three types of religious problem-solving: self-directing, deferring, and collaborative. A self-directing style stresses solving problems independently from God, a deferring problem-solving approach tends to wait for God for the emergence of resolution, and a collaborative problem-solving style shows a working relationship with God in the process of resolving problems. Pargament et al. found that individuals with self-directing problem-solving style were less likely to use traditional religious practices as a means of coping. They perceived themselves as the source of solving their problems. They prayed less often than individuals with collaborative or deferring problem-solving. in contrast, individuals with deferring and collaborative problem-solving styles were associated with more religious involvement although in different ways. Whereas collaborative styles are positively correlated with religious salience, internal commitments, and an intimate relationship with God, deferring styles are associated with more adherence to orthodox religious doctrine and reliance on external rules.

In terms of the relationship between religious problem-solving and abuse, Webb and Whitmer (2001) found that people who had been physically or emotionally abused as children appeared to prefer to solve their problems on their own and seemed to be less likely to use problem-solving styles that involved either working with, or deferring to God. Ake and Horne (2003) found that negative religious coping, such as attributing the violent incidences to the devil, seemed to increase psychological distress among Christian women with IPV. In addition, the study indicated that women who were religious for internal reasons were more likely to use positive religious coping, such as seeking God's love and care, than women who used religion for external reasons, such as social status.

The purpose of the present study was to extend the existing literature on IPV in the lives of Christian women by exploring a) whether there are differences between Christian women who have been in IPV relationships (including physical violence, sexual assault, stalking, or threats of abuse) versus non-IPV relationships with respect to church attendance of them and their partners, their beliefs in traditional gender roles in marriage, and religious problem-solving approaches; b) whether there are differences between Christian women from conservative versus liberal/moderate religious affiliations with respect to church attendance of them and their partners, their beliefs in traditional gender roles in marriage, and religious problem-solving approaches; c) among Christian women who have left IPV relationships, what types of community and social support resources they relied on and what reasons gave them strength to leave the relationship.


Participants and Procedures

Once the researchers received approval from The University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences (UTCHS) Institutional Review Board (IRB), they used telephone interviews to collect data from a large randomly selected sample of women ages 18 or above in a Southeastern metropolitan area (n = 2,500) in 2002-2003. interviews averaged forty-five minutes in duration. The survey included questions related to experiences and attitudes toward intimate partner violence, religiosity, attitudes toward women, religious problem-solving, and demographic information.

The data analyses for the current study began once IRB approval was received from The University of Memphis. in the data analysis, a subset of women who self-reported as being fairly religious or deeply religious and attending regular religious services at least a few times a year were explored in depth.

Because the majority of women in this sample reported the religion they followed was Christianity (71.4%) and because the researchers were interested in exploring the effects of different Christian beliefs, this sample was narrowed to include only religious women who self-identified as Christian (n = 1,785) and who self-reported as fairly religious or deeply religious (n = 1,620). Of these participants, 144 who failed to respond to all measures were dropped from analyses, which resulted in a sample of 1,476. Participants' average age was 47 years (SD = 15.7; range, 18 to 91). Other demographic information is presented in Table 1.


Demographic and religious activities. Demographic information included participants' age, race, education, employment status, and family income. Participants were asked about their religious affiliation, church attendance, and their perception about their religiosity and their intimate partners' religiosity. Participants who were currently in a romantic relationship were asked about their intimate partners' attendance at religious services on a 6-point scale from 1 (More than once a week) to 6 (Never).

Leaving an abusive relationship. Women who reported violence by an intimate partner were asked whether they left the abusive relationship. if they did, they were also asked what types of social and community resources and factors were helpful in giving them the support and strength to leave abusive relationships.

Denominational attitudes toward gender roles and religious teaching about divorce. Two questions were used to assess denominational attitudes toward gender roles: "Does your religion teach that men have a position of leadership in marriage?" and "Does your religion teach women to be submissive to their spouse?' Participants rated their response on a 5-point scale from 1 (Always) to 5 (Never). The scale of denominational attitudes toward gender roles was formed by averaging the two items. Cronbach's alpha reliability coefficient was .77 for the present study.

Participants were asked whether their religion teaches that divorce is acceptable in the case of domestic violence. Participants rated their response on a 5-point scale from 1 (Always) to 5 (Never). Single-item questions such as this have been shown to suffice when the construct being measured is sufficiently narrow and unambiguous (e.g., Sackett & Larson, 1990).

Religious problem-solving. Religious problem-solving was measured by the Religious Problem-Solving Scale, short form (Pargament et al., 1988). The original scale is a 36-item self-reported measure of religious problem-solving tapping into three domains: self-directing, deferring, and collaborative. The authors (Pargament et al., 1988) suggested a short version of the scale consisting of 6 items in each subscale with a total of 18 items, which was used in the present study. Each item is rated on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (Never) to 5 (Always).

Pargament et al. (1988) reported good psychometric information regarding reliability and validity. in addition, they reported that the short-form scale correlated highly with the original scale (at .97 or above), with excellent reliability estimates in each subscale (Collaborative, Cronbach's [alpha] = .93; Self-Directing, Cronbach's [alpha] = .91; Deferring, Cronbach's [alpha] = .89). For the present study, Cronbach's alpha reliability coefficients were reported to be .93 for the Collaborative subscale; .89 for the Self-Directing subscale, and .84 for the Deferring subscale.

Intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence referred to five types of violent behaviors, including (a) physical violence, (b) sexual violence, (c) threats of physical violence, (d) stalking, and (e) psychological/emotional abuse (Barnett et al., 2005; Saltzman, Fanslow, McMahon, & Shelley, 1999).

Physical and emotional violence were assessed by a modified version of the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales (R-CTS2; Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, & Sugarman, 1996), a widely used instrument measuring partner violence. The physical scale consisted of 12 items and the emotional violence consisted of 11 items. Good internal consistency and high reliabilities were reported by the authors (Straus et al., 1996). Responses were coded as a dichotomous variable (1 = Fes; 2 = No). The Physical Abuse Scale of the R-CTS2 has been shown to be reliable (Cronbach's [alpha] = .82) among participants reporting as victims of domestic violence (Magdol, Moffitt, Caspi, & Silva, 1998). For the present study, Cronbach's alpha reliability coefficients were reported to be .99 for the physical abuse scale and .77 for the emotional abuse scale.

Threat of violence was assessed by asking, "Has any romantic partner ever verbally threatened to kill you?' Sexual abuse was assessed by asking, "Has a romantic partner ever made you have vaginal, oral or anal sex by using force or threatening to harm you or someone close to you?' Stalking was measured by asking participants whether they have been followed or harassed by their partners, or person they have dated. Responses were coded as a dichotomous variable (1 = Yes; 2 = No).

Our data showed that among 1,476 participants, 50.7% (n = 749) had experienced at least one or more types of abuse (physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual assault, stalking, or threats) by current or previous intimate partners with 23.6% of them reporting experience of more than two forms of abuse.


Among 1,476 women self-identified as fairly and deeply religious Christians, 64% attend church service once or more than once a week. A majority of the participants (85%) reported that their Christian belief is a source of strength and comfort for them. Christian women who reported that they were currently involved in an intimate partner relationship were asked about their partners' religious affiliations and attendance (n = 862). The majority of their intimate partners' religious affiliations were Christianity (98%), and about 70% of them attended church services at least a few times a month. Christian women and their partners' religious activities are displayed in Table 2.

Independent t-tests were used to compare whether there were group differences in religious teachings about gender roles, submission and divorce, Christian women and partners' church attendances, and religious problem-solving measures between Christian women who were in previous or current abusive relationships (n = 749) versus women who reported not having any abusive relationships (n = 727). The Bonferroni adjustment for protection of experiment-wise error rate was used (Kirk, 1982); with [[alpha].sub.E] = .15, an [alpha] = .02 was used across the seven pairwise comparisons. Table 3 presents the means and standard deviations. Results showed a significant difference in Christian women (t = -4.38, p <.001) and their intimate partners' church attendance (t = -5.81, p <.001) and perceptions of a church's acceptance of divorce in cases of domestic violence (t = -2.88, p <.01). Women as well as their intimate partners who reported attending church more regularly were less likely to report experiencing domestic violence. Women who currently or previously had abusive partners reported that their church communities were less accepting of divorce in cases of domestic violence.

Christian faith was classified into liberal or conservative religious affiliation status according to the classification suggested by Smith (1990). The conservatives are distinguished by belief in a) the inerrancy of the Bible, b) personal salvation by accepting Christ as their savior, c) the return of Christ, d) an evangelical desire to reach out to save and convert others, and e) acceptance of traditional Protestant beliefs such as the Trinity, the Virgin birth, and the existence of angels and devils. The liberal denominations tend to a) focus on the operation of this world rather than salvation in heaven, b) accept secular change and science, c) have less faith in the literal message of the Bible, and e) do not believe in the Advent. The moderates tend to reflect varying elements between the two poles (Smith, 1990). For data analysis purposes, liberal and moderate groups were combined into a single liberal/moderate group. It should be noted that participants who did not specify their religious affiliations and those whose religious affiliations could not be defined by Smith's system were excluded from the data analyses (n = 109). Therefore, the total sample size was 1,367 with 848 participants in the conservative group and 519 participants in the moderate/liberal group. Kirk's (1982) Bonferroni adjustment for protection of experimentwise error rate was used. With [[alpha].sub.E] = .15, an [alpha] = .02 was used across the eight pairwise comparisons of women from conservative versus liberal/moderate religious affiliations. Five out of eight variables showed significant differences between women from conservative versus moderate/liberal religious affiliations. That is, compared to women from moderate/liberal religious affiliations, women from conservative religious affiliations attended church more regularly; they used more deferring and collaborative religious problem-solving styles; they perceived their religion to be less accepting of divorce even in the case of domestic violence; and they perceived that their churches placed a stronger emphasis on men's leadership and women's submission in marriage. However, there were no significant differences in experiencing IPV, intimate partners' church attendance and self-directing religious problem-solving between the two religious affiliations. Table 4 presents the means and standard deviations.

Among religious women who reported having experienced abusive relationships in the past that they had left (n = 200), descriptive analyses were used to understand a) the types of community and social support resources they relied on while leaving the abusive relationship and b) the resources that gave them the strength to leave the relationship. Results indicated that the community and social support resources most commonly utilized while leaving abusive relationships were the food stamps program, TennCare, and legal services (see Table 5). In terms of resources listed (see Table 6), Christian women reported most commonly that strength provided by God gave them the courage to leave. Other important supports were interventions from family or friends, and a desire to protect oneself and one's children.

More than 70% of Christian women agreed (35%) or strongly agreed (36%) that their Christian faith helped them leave their IPV relationship and, in contrast, 14% disagreed (11%) or strongly disagreed (3%). In terms of how their faith helped them to leave, Christian women reported that God gave them strength in the leaving process (66%), gave them faith that they would survive if they left (54%), helped them realize that they needed to protect themselves (52%), and helped them believe that they did not deserve the abuse (52%).


The goal of the current study was to investigate the relationship between IPV and religious factors among 1,476 Christian women. Results from this large random sample telephone survey provided additional insight into the existing literature on IPV in the lives of Christian women.

Consistent with previous findings (e.g., Annis & Rice, 2001), our results showed that domestic abuse is a common occurrence among women of Christian faith. More than 50% of Christian women in our sample reported experiencing at least one form of abuse from their current or previous intimate partners. When comparing these findings to similar forms of abuse in a prior national study using a random sample (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000), this figure, suggests that IPV may be over 60% higher in this sample. This finding leads to great concern about the frequency of IPV within the Southern US as well as within highly religious areas. The findings support the numerous calls for inclusion of domestic violence prevention and intervention training programs for clergy in order to increase their awareness and knowledge of domestic violence and intervention skills (Nason-Clark, 2004; Rotunda, Williamson, & Penfold, 2004).

Results comparing Christian women with and without domestic violence experiences showed a significant difference in church attendance. Both women and their intimate partners who attend church services more regularly were less likely to be in IPV relationships. The results seemed to agree with previous literature (e.g., Cunradi et al., 2002) indicating that church attendance of women and their intimate partners may serve as a protective factor from IPV for Christian women. It is possible that a church community support system, spiritual reliance on God, church sermons emphasizing relationships and commitment, and sanctions against male-perpetrated violence may explain the positive role of church attendance. However, it is also possible for women in IPV relationships to not attend church because of the physical or emotional pain in their daily lives. They may experience visible signs of bruising and, therefore, be less likely to participate in any social activities. They may feel shame to share their abuse with their church community, and avoid participating or connecting with church members. It is also possible that these women with IPV experience are restricted in their social activities by their husbands so that they are not free to attend church services.

In terms of gender roles in marriage, the study found no differences in religious affiliation and religious teachings about gender roles in marriage between abused and non-abused Christian women. Even though it has been hypothesized that religious affiliation with conservative or evangelical traditions are associated with more traditional family and gender roles, which may lead to greater risk for family violence (Griffin & Maples, 1997), findings from the current study offered only modest support for this theory--in the finding that abused women appeared to be affiliated with religious groups that discourage divorce in the case of IPV (which tend to be more conservative in theology) in contrast to non-abused women. The direct comparisons of the congregations' conservative or moderate/liberal orientation did not show any difference in experience or history of abuse, consistent with previous reports (Ellison, Bartkowski, & Anderson, 1999). Therefore, it seems that women in congregations that are less accepting of divorce due to IPV may be more likely victims of abuse because without the support from their faith communities, they may find it more difficult to exit IPV relationships.

Results showed several differences between Christian women from conservative and from moderate/liberal Christian affiliations. That is, the data showed that Christian women from conservative religious affiliations, regardless of whether they had domestic violence experiences or not, used significantly more deferring and collaborative religious problem-solving than women from moderate/liberal religious affiliations. Pargament (1997) has pointed out that coping is embedded in culture, and culture influences individuals' perceptions of events, appraisals of situations, selection of coping activities, and evaluation of outcomes. Therefore, it is understandable that women from a religious environment that strongly emphasizes reliance on God's power appear to develop more collaborative and deferring religious problem-solving styles when facing life challenges. In addition, results from the current study did not confirm previous findings of people who had abuse histories preferring to solve their problems on their own rather than either working with, or deferring to, God (i.e., Webb & Whitmer, 2001). However, the focus of Webb and Whitmer's study was the impact of childhood abuse on their religious problem-solving. The current study investigated the relationship between religious problem-solving and adulthood IPV. Therefore, results of the current study suggested no difference in terms of types of religious problem-solving among Christian women with or without IPV.

However, the role of different religious coping styles in Christian women leaving IPV relationship needs future study. For instance, for Christian women who successfully left an IPV relationship, do they utilize more deferring and/or collaborative coping styles than those who stay in an IPV relationship? Also, longitudinal designs may shed more light on whether religious coping styles change over time in Christian women's journey of leaving IPV relationships.

In terms of social and community resources, our participants identified important resources that helped them leave the IPV relationships, including financial and medical support, legal services, and housing assistance. As mentioned in the literature review, leaving an abusive relationship is a slow and potentially dangerous process; it is essential for mental health professionals or clergy working with IPV victims to be familiar with these social and community resources and connect or present IPV victims with these resources. Indeed, IPV is a social rather than family issue. If victims seek help from church leaders, it is important to present these resources even in the process of trying to intervene in the situation. Church leaders should not wait until they conclude the situation is irresolvable.

This study adds to the previous literature by emphasizing the importance of Christian women's religious beliefs about the role God plays in their lives within the context of more global structural differences or beliefs within denominations. Specifically, the data provides some insights into the role of Christian faith in their leaving IPV relationships. It seems a great deal of strength came from the intimate relationship with God and, therefore, helped Christian women realize the importance of protecting their children and themselves. They believed that the support and comfort from God would help them survive leaving the IPV relationship. The result is resonant with the finding from Knickmeyer et al. (2003), in which IPV victims reported that they were empowered when they realized that God hates abuse more than divorce and they are worth being free from abuse. The love and forgiveness received from God provided them the strength to leave IPV relationships. Likewise, findings from Ware et al (2006) indicated that faith leaders who demonstrated some flexibility in scriptural interpretation and who prioritized safety over preserving the marriage were perceived as more empathic and supportive. As a result of such compassion and support, religious women were able to be free from the burden of shame and guilt that accompanies leaving IPV relationships.

Study Limitations

One limitation of this study was that the variance explained by the set of religious variables was small in all analyses. Even though it was the intention of the researchers for the current study to include only religious variables in relation to the length of time Christian women took to leave abusive relationships, the overall religious variables explained only a small proportion of the variance in the model. It is not clear whether religious factors play only a small role in leaving abusive partners or whether there are other religious variables that need to be included in the model in order to predict leaving. When interpreting these results, it is also important to note that the participants all self-identified as religious Christian women and that findings may differ for secular or non-Christian women.

Another limitation is the telephone survey method. Even though surveying provides a unique opportunity to select a sample that approaches a random sampling, some households may not have their telephones registered or the numbers were unlisted, there were interruptions, and others might not have been able to answer due to other uncontrollable factors, such as husbands or other people around the house when women received the phone survey. Also, even though the telephone survey company was contacted, we were not able to obtain information about the initial call rate. Therefore, it is not clear whether there were characteristic differences between women who completed the telephone survey and those who did not. Some instruments used in this current study were designed as a self-report questionnaire (e.g., Religious Problem-Solving Scale). It is unknown whether oral administration of the survey would impact the validity of such instruments. In addition, the random survey was limited to a southeastern metropolitan population, and it is unclear how well results may generalize to populations in other regions.

Nonetheless, this study provided a unique contribution to the field of IPV study as it explored religious factors that appear to have influenced Christian women's experiences in IPV. A major strength of the current study was the large randomly selected sample. In addition, the current study contributed to the existing literature of religion and IPV by extending our understanding of the effects of religious factors to the process of Christian women leaving IPV relationships. Findings of this research underscore the need for counselors, psychologists, mental health workers and clergy working directly with victims of IPV to be aware of possible religious influences and resources that help Christian women leaving the violent relationship.


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Mei-Chuan Wang

Fayetteville State University

Sharon G. Horne

Heidi M. Levitt, Lisa M. Klesges

The University of Memphis

Supports for this research were sponsored by LeBonheur Health Systems, Inc., and grant P20 MD001089-01 from the National Institution of Health, NCMHD, and Department of Health and Human Services. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mei-Chuan Wang, Department of Psychology, Fayetteville State University, 1200 Murchison Road, Fayetteville, NC 28301; e-mail:

Mei-Chuan Wang (Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, The University of Memphis, 2007) is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the Fayetteville State University (NC). Dr. Wang's research interests include positive psychology, suicidal behavior, intimate partner violence, and the psychology of religion.

Sharon G. Horne (Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, The University of Georgia, 1998) is an Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology and a faculty affiliate with the Center for Research on Women at The University of Memphis (TN). Dr. Horne's interests include international issues in psychology, sexual minority concerns, and domestic violence.

Heidi M. Levitt (Ph.D., in Clinical Psychology, York University, 1998) is an Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology at The University of Memphis. She is a member of the editorial board of a number of journals, such as The Humanistic Psychologist, Psychotherapy Research, and the Journal of Constructivist Psychology. Her research focuses upon gender, sexual orientation psychotherapy, and qualitative research.

Lisa M. Klesges (Ph.D. in Epidemiology, University of Minnesota, 1995) is Professor of Public Health and directs the School of Public Health at University of Memphis (TN). She is Associate Editor of Annals of Behavioral Medicine and conducts behavioral epidemiological and prevention research with particular interest in women's and children's health.
Table 1
Demographic Data of the Sample (N= 1476)

Demographic data %

 Caucasian 59%
 African American 34%
 Biracial 3%
 Hispanic / Latino 3%
 American Indian / Alaskan Native, Asian American, or Other 1%
Highest level of education
 Post-graduate 13%
 4-year college degree 23%
 Some college 34%
 High school diploma 25%
 Some high school, grade school, or no schooling 6%
Household income
 Over $80,000 22%
 Between $50,000 and $79,999 21%
 Between $35,000 and $49,999 18%
 Between $20,000 and $34,999 20%
 Below $20,000. 19%
 Full-time 53%
 Part-time 12%
 Retired 17%
 Homemaker 9%
 Unemployed 5%
 Student 4%
Relationship Status
 Married 52%
 Single and never married 13%
 Widowed 12%
 Divorced 11%
 Seriously dating someone 5%
 Living as a couple or in a common-law relationship 4%
 Separated 3%

Table 2
Religious Data of the Sample

Religious data %
Frequency of Christian women's church attendance (n = 1476)
 More than once a week 30%
 Once a week 34%
 A few times a month 17%
 A few times a year 13%
 Once a year or never 6%
How much is religion a source of strength and comfort
for you? (n = 1476)
 A great deal 85%
 Average 14%
 None or don't know 1%
Intimate partners' religious affiliations (n = 862)
 Christianity 96%
 None 2%
 Judaism 1%
 Others 1%
Frequency of intimate partners' church attendance (n = 891)
 More than once a week 24%
 Once a week 28%
 A few times a month 17%
 A few times a year 16%
 Once a year 5%
 Never 10%

Note. Only Christian women who reported being currently involved
in an intimate partner relationship were asked their partners'
religious affiliations and attendance.

Table 3
Means and Standard Deviations for Two Groups of Christian Women in


Scales n M SD

Self-Directing Religious Problem-solving 727 1.98 .91
Deferring Religious Problem-solving 727 3.63 1.00
Collaborative Religious Problem-solving 727 4.08 .88
Religion teaches about gender roles 727 2.41 1.36
 in marriage
Christian women's church attendance ** 727 2.20 1.20
Intimate partners' church attendance ** 407 2.47 1.46
Divorce is acceptable in IPV ** 678 2.18 1.35


Scales n M SD

Self-Directing Religious Problem-solving 749 2.02 .93
Deferring Religious Problem-solving 749 3.61 1.00
Collaborative Religious Problem-solving 749 4.10 .87
Religion teaches about gender roles 749 2.37 1.32
 in marriage
Christian women's church attendance ** 749 2.49 1.38
Intimate partners' church attendance ** 484 3.07 1.59
Divorce is acceptable in IPV ** 705 2.40 1.48

Note. IPV= intimate partner violence; ** p < .01

Table 4
Means and Standard Deviations for Two Groups of Christian Women
in Measures



Scales n M SD

Self-Directing Religious Problem-solving 848 1.96 .91
Deferring Religious Problem-solving *** 848 3.86 1.00
Collaborative Religious 848 4.23 .88
 Problem-solving ***
Religion teaches about gender roles 848 2.21 1.36
 in marriage ***
Christian women's church attendance ** 848 2.21 1.20
Intimate partners' church attendance 505 2.73 1.46
Divorce is acceptable in IPV ** 803 2.41 1.35
Experiencing IPV (Yes vs. No) 848 .525 .50



Scales n M SD

Self-Directing Religious Problem-solving 519 2.05 .89
Deferring Religious Problem-solving *** 519 3.29 1.00
Collaborative Religious 519 3.91 .91
 Problem-solving ***
Religion teaches about gender roles 519 2.53 1.30
 in marriage ***
Christian women's church attendance ** 519 2.53 1.30
Intimate partners' church attendance 328 2.87 1.45
Divorce is acceptable in IPV ** 477 2.14 1.34
Experiencing IPV (Yes vs. No) 519 .495 .50

Note. IPV = intimate partner violence; ** p < .01, *** p < .001

Table 5
Community and Social Support Resources Christian Women Relied on
While They Were Leaving Abusive Relationships (N = 200)

 Frequency %

Food Stamps 40 20%
Legal Services 31 16%
TennCare 31 16%
Welfare/Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) 28 14%
Childcare Assistance/State daycare waiver/Subsidized 21 11%
Public Transportation 20 10%
Public Housing 14 7%
Faith-based services (MIFA; churches) 12 6%
Emergency Shelters 8 4%
Food Pantry/Food Bank 8 4%
Community Agency/Social Service Agency Resources 8 4%

Note. Multiple responses were recorded.

Table 6
Factors that Were Perceived Helpful in Giving Christian Women Strength
to Leave Abusive Relationships (N = 200)

 Frequency %

God gave me strength 55 28%
Intervention from family 47 24%
 or friends
Self-protection 33 17%
Wishing to protect children 32 16%
Intervention from God 22 11%
God changed my circumstances 13 7%
Husband/partner left 4 2%
Financial opportunity or change 3 2%
Luck 2 1%

Note. Multiple responses were recorded.
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Author:Wang, Mei-Chuan; Horne, Sharon G.; Levitt, Heidi M.; Klesges, Lisa M.
Publication:Journal of Psychology and Christianity
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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