JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY
Pargament, K. I., Zinnbauer, B. J., Scott, A. B., Butter, E. M., Zerowin, J., & Stanik, P. (2003). Red flags and religious coping: Identifying some religious warning signs among people in crisis Vol. 59 (12), 1335-1348
While considerable research has been completed on the adaptive role religion plays in coping, less is known about problematic religious coping. In this article, the authors attempt to develop an instrument to assess religious warning signs of people in crisis by relating specific dimensions of problematic coping to measures of mental health and negative outcomes.
The authors use a process/integration criterion approach for evaluating the efficacy of religious coping. A process/integration criterion approach assesses the degree of integration among an individual's beliefs, emotions, behavior, values, social system, and the demands raised by specific stressors. From a process/integration perspective, problems in coping do not arise as the result of any specific means or end but due to their imbalance.
Within this process/integration perspective, the authors identify three categories of hypothetically ineffective religious coping, comprised of various "red flags." The first category, Wrong Direction, concerns involvement in religious goals or values that reflect an imbalance of self, other, and world concerns and includes three sub-domains. Self Neglect refers to an overemphasis on religious values over against other needs. Self Worship involves an overemphasis on personal goals to the neglect of religious ends. Religious Apathy refers to a religiously based devaluation of self and others. The second ineffective coping category, Wrong Road, involves coping strategies that are inappropriate to demands and includes four domains. These are the use of religion to: punish oneself for stressful situations, defer all coping responsibility to God or the congregation, inflict pain on others, and deny that stressful events negatively impact oneself. The third category, Against the Wind, describes conflict that arises with God, within the individuals' interpersonal system, or within him/herself.
The sample included 49 participants from a Midwestern Roman Catholic church and 196 students from a Midwestern university. All participants had experienced a major negative life event within the past two years. Participants completed a questionnaire indicating how they coped with their stressors. Mental health measures included the religious Red Flags scales (described above), Rosenberg's (1965) measure of self-esteem, the trait anxiety inventory, and the Behavioral Attributes of Psychosocial Competence scale, which assesses purposeful problem solving skills. Event-related outcome measures included a 10-factor analytically-derived assessment of negative affect, a measure that examines the religious resolution of the event, and a general outcome measure that evaluates the favorableness of the event's resolution..
In general, results supported the proposed "red flags" as indicators of problematic religious coping. Specifically, Religious Apathy, God's Punishment, Anger at God, Religious Doubts, Interpersonal Religious Conflict, and Conflict with Church Dogma were correlated with poorer mental health and event-related outcomes. The authors suggest that these scales appear to capture a tension between individuals and their religious worlds, suggesting a lack of integration. Thus, in response to specific stressors, participants experienced chaos within their religious worlds, leading to compromised efficacious religious coping.
Two "red flags" were unexpectedly related to positive outcomes, however. The Self Neglect and Religious Denial dimensions were related to better mental health and event outcomes. The authors offer several possible explanations. First, these dimensions could have been erroneously conceptualized as problematic. Second, participants may have attributed more benign meaning to the items within these dimensions than researchers intended. For instance, the item "I wasn't upset because I believed this would bring me closer to God" may have been interpreted as a positive reframe rather than a neurotic denial of pain. Third, the authors assert that the Self Neglect and Religious Denial dimensions reflect experiences of stressors that did not disrupt participants' beliefs, values, and relationships. From a process/integration perspective Self Neglect and Denial may be related to positive outcomes because they resolve stressful events without challenging religious beliefs or social systems.
To further examine the relationship of religion to problematic coping, the authors suggest that research be conducted on the reactions of mental health professionals and pastoral counselors to clients' expressions of the identified "red flags." The authors believe that this information would illuminate clinicians' concerns about religious themes in coping and provide a comparison with the perspectives of pastoral counselors. The authors also highlight the need to examine whether the "red flags" are indicators of only short-term distress or are also predictors of possible long-term impairment or catalysts to growth.
MENTAL HEALTH, RELIGION, & CULTURE
Hathaway, W. L. (2003).
Clinically significant religious impairment
Vol. 6 (2), 113-129
To qualify as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition, symptoms must produce "clinically significant impairment" in "social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning" (APA, 1994). The author argues that clinicians should include disrupted religious functioning in assessing the severity level of psychopathological syndromes. The author defines clinically significant religious impairment (CSRI) as: "a reduced ability to perform religious activities, achieve religious goals, or to experience religious states, due to a psychological disorder."
While the mental health field has greatly increased its attention on religious issues in recent years, the author states that including CSRI in the severity assessment of pathological symptoms represents a crucial shift in practice. Rather than viewing religious functioning primarily as a contributor to symptomatology, the inclusion of CSRI validates religious functioning as also an outcome variable, dependent on psychological functioning. The author addresses two specific objections that psychologists may pose against this perspective. First, the author clarifies that mixed results concerning religion's palliative effects reflect the variable relationships between different facets of religiosity and mental health and thus do not preclude religious functioning as a clinically significant adaptive domain. Second, the author asserts that religious functioning is not best conceptualized as a sub-domain of social functioning. Research is cited that reveals positive correlations between religiosity and coping, psychological adjustment, and global life satisfaction, independent of the contribution of sociality.
In order for assessment of potential religious impairment to become a routine aspect of clinical diagnosis, the author lists several developments that are necessary. First, research is needed to conceptualize what aspects of religious functioning are impacted by specific disorders. Second, measures of religiousness that are appropriate for clinical research must be developed and/or identified. Third, ethical issues raised by the author's proposal must be articulated and resolved. The author queries, for instance, whether mental health professionals are competent to assess impaired religious functioning and whether such assessment can be accomplished without the imposition of psychological values over religious values. Lastly, a significant body of research is required that supports religious functioning as an adaptive domain impacted by mental disorders and that leads to explicit guidelines for assessing religious functioning.
JOURNAL OF CROSS-CULTURAL PSYCHOLOGY
Tarakeshwar, N., & Pargament, K. I. (2003). Religion: An overlooked dimension in crosscultural psychology
Vol. 34 (4), 377-394
The authors assert that religion and culture are often inextricably interwoven. Both influence people's beliefs and practices, and yet each contributes its unique impact. Thus the authors argue that religion should be integrated into the theory and research of cross-cultural psychology in order to better elucidate the interplay of these variables in influencing human behavior.
The authors examine the degree to which religion has been included in prior cross-cultural studies. They calculated the number of articles published in four prominent cross-cultural journals over the past 34 years that included religion as an explicit variable. The total number of empirical and theoretical articles ranged from about 2 to 6 percent. It is important to note that religion was assessed through global indices in all articles (e.g., church affiliation, attendance frequency, prayer, and/or self-rated religiosity). The authors assert that religion plays a role in the cultural influences on human behavior beyond the limited relationships investigated thus far. Therefore, they advocate that cross-cultural psychologists improve their theory and research by explicitly considering the influence of religion on cross-cultural dimensions,, such as individualism-collectivism, power-distance, and masculinity-femininity. In order to facilitate this integration, the authors provide rational and empirical justification for including religion in cross-cultural research and delineate a framework for its inclusion.
Several reasons are listed for the incorporation of religious dimensions into cross-cultural studies. The authors highlight the salience of religious belief and practice to a vast majority in many parts of the world. Research is also cited that indicates that religion is an important predictor of health, adaptive coping, and psychological adjustment. The authors also note that religion has been predictive of important cross-cultural dimensions, such as traditionalistic over against hedonistic motivations. Also, a conjoint spiritual life-benevolence factor was conceptualized to reflect the cross-cultural dimensions of self-transcendence. Lastly, the authors provide support that cultural factors also shape religious beliefs and practices. For instance, Egyptian and Balinese Muslims adhere to differing beliefs about death. Despite religious similarities, each group appears to adopt those beliefs that are most congruent with their culture. In sum, the authors argue that religion impacts cultural practice and that culture alters regional manifestations of religion. Therefore, culture and religion are best investigated together in order to provide the most accurate understanding of cross-cultural similarities and differences.
The authors provide a five dimensional framework of religion to assess how these dimensions can influence cultures and to suggest possible cross-cultural dimensions that may be conceptually associated with each dimension. The first dimension, the ideological dimension, pertains to religious beliefs and their salience in an individual's life. Included are those beliefs pertaining to the nature of the divine, the ultimate purpose of life, and the means through which this divine purpose is fulfilled. The authors cite studies, revealing that the ideological dimension influences cultural conceptualizations of health, coping, and appropriate forms of social structure.
Second, the ritualistic dimension refers to behaviors expected of a religious adherent. In addition to significantly impacting daily life, religious rituals can serve as reminders of religious history, promote developmental transitions and identity development, and provide a context for social affiliation.
The experiential dimension pertains to the believer's inner cognitive and emotional world and includes the sense of physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. The authors cite studies that examine the impact of the experiential dimension on state anxiety, physical health, attentional processes, and psychological adjustment. The intellectual dimension refers to a believer's knowledge of the faith and to his/her openness to examining the faith. The authors note that religions differ about whether their religious literature is viewed as literal or metaphorical and about the relative importance of religious knowledge versus strict conformity to practice. The authors state that an individual's religious knowledge could have significant impact on the ease with which the cultural/ethnic identity is transmitted to following generations. Also, empirical research indicates that the manner in which believers understand their religion influences tolerance toward outgroup members.
Lastly, the social dimension refers to the fact that religious beliefs and practices are maintained within a social context and thus have the potential to influence relationships. For instance, the authors cite research that indicates that Hindu Indians are motivated by a "duty-based interpersonal code," which is qualitatively different from a Western morality of justice or caring. Religion also differentially impacts genders in different cultures, particularly with regard to parenting and to the experience of religion as fundamentally interpersonal or ritualistic.
The authors then provide a three-level framework within which religion can be integrated into crosscultural research. At the most basic level, religion can be incorporated into cross-cultural research as a methodological control of possible confounds between cross-cultural dimensions and outcome variables (e.g., between individualism-collectivism and workers' relationships). At a second level of integration, the authors suggest that cross-cultural researchers venture beyond distal measures of religiousness to religious dimensions that could potentially predict influence on culture and vice versa. The most sophisticated level of integration would involve a theoretical conceptualization of religious and cross-cultural variables and their relative influences on human behavior.
The authors note that their dimensional understanding of religion suffers from limitations inherent to all dimensional strategies. First, a dimensional approach may obscure religious expressions unique to different cultures. Second, specific dimensions may be more relevant to certain cultures and thus may not be cross-culturally transferable. Lastly, a dimensional approach assumes invariant religious manifestation across time and context.
BRITISH JOURNAL OF HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY
James, A., & Wells, A. (2003).
Religion and mental health: Towards a cognitive-behavioral framework
Vol. 8, 359-376
Research reveals mixed results concerning the associations between religiosity and mental health. The authors argue that religiosity is a complex construct with specific dimensions likely having divergent effects on mental health. Thus the authors assert that it is more illuminating to examine the relationships of specific religious dimensions with mental health than evaluating global associations. The authors provide a broad overview of these associations. Intrinsic religiousness tends to be positively correlated with psychological well-being, while extrinsic religiousness has a negative relationship. The quest religious dimension reveals no clear relationship, possibly due to its highly idiosyncratic content. In terms of religious behaviors, church attendance tends to be positively associated with well-being, while prayer has a variable relationship with well-being, dependent on prayer type. Meditative and conversational prayer appear to be positively correlated with well-being, while petitionary and ritualistic prayer are positively correlated with negative affect.
The authors provide two cognitive-behavioral mechanisms that appear to mediate the relationships between religiosity and mental health and elucidate religiosity's variable influence on mental health. First, the authors assert that religious beliefs provide a generic mental model that serves as a basis for guiding appraisals of life events. Accordingly, both the content and the certainty with which religious beliefs are maintained would influence individuals' appraisals of situational stress and thus affect their responses. Based on this conceptualization, the authors believe that the presence of a salient generic mental model to guide appraisals is associated with mental health. The authors cite research indicating that a strong interpretive framework enables individuals to make sense of their experiences and to maintain a sense of control. On the other hand, weaker systems of religious beliefs are correlated with greater situational distress. The authors also hypothesize that the beliefs comprising the mental model moderate the degree to which the religious framework is associated with positive mental health. The authors discuss various studies which indicate that positive religious beliefs and God attributions are associated with mental health, whereas negative religious beliefs are positively correlated with poorer mental health.
The second cognitive-behavioral mechanism mediating the relationships between religiosity and mental health is the self-regulatory executive function model proposed by Wells and Matthews (1994). According to this model, emotional disorder is conceptualized as a cognitive-attentional syndrome comprised of self-focused attention and perseverative thinking, which reduces the processing of disconfirmatory information and maintains mental preoccupation with threat. The authors state that religious beliefs and behaviors may affect ongoing cognitive processes, particularly attention to internal events, thus influencing mental health. More specifically, the authors speculate that religious behaviors that increase self-regulation through reducing self-focus and worry would be positively associated with mental health. Conversely, religious behaviors that increase these factors are assumed to be related to poorer well-being. The authors reason that some religious traditions equate thinking with acting and thus may promote vigilance of cognition, cognitive penance, or "undoing" rituals. Meditation is thought to reduce self-focused attention and enhance mental control. The authors speculate that increased self-regulation may mediate the positive relationship between meditative prayer and well-being. Research supporting the author's self-regulation hypothesis is limited, however.
For future research, the authors note the need for greater differentiation in the understanding of American and British religiosity. Also, the authors assert that further training is necessary so that the academic progress made in conceptualizing religious factors is transmitted in applicable forms to the clinical domain.
ALSO OF INTEREST
Dowling, E. M., Gestsdottir, S., Anderson, P. M., & von Eye, A., (2003). Spirituality, religiosity, and thriving among adolescents: Identification and confirmation of factor structures. Applied Developmental Science, 7(4), 253-260.
Johnson, C. V., & Hayes, J. A. Troubled spirits: Prevalence and predictors of religious and spiritual concerns among university students and counseling center clients. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 50(4), 409-419.
Ozorak, E. W. (2003). Culture, gender, faith: The social construction of the person-God relationship. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 13(40, 249-257.
Roysircar, G. (2003). Religious differences: Psychological and sociopolitical aspects of counseling. International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 25(4), 255-267.
Yarhouse, M. A. (2003). Ethical issues in considering "religious impairment" in diagnosis. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 6(2), 131-147.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||British Journal of Health Psychology; Journal od Clinical Psychology; Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology; Mental Health, Religion, and Culture|
|Publication:||Journal of Psychology and Theology|
|Article Type:||Periodical Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2004|
|Previous Article:||Students' perceptions of Jesus' personality as assessed by Jungian-type inventories.|
|Next Article:||Warning: this book's warning may be hazardous to your mental health.|