Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Marital Well-Being and Religiousness as Mediated by Relational Virtue and Equality

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Marital Well-Being and Religiousness as Mediated by Relational Virtue and Equality

Article excerpt

This study investigated religiousness and couple well-being as mediated by relational virtue and equality. Relational spiritual framework theory posits that religiousness is associated with couple well-being through relational virtues (e.g., forgiveness, commitment, and sacrifice). Theories of relational inequality postulate that religion decreases couple well-being and indirectly lessens couple well-being. Data from a 3-year longitudinal community sample of 354 married couples were used. The authors found that religiousness 's relationship to couple wellbeing was fully mediated by relational virtue but was not connected to relational inequality. They also found that relational inequality was associated with women's conflict, men's conflict, and marital instability. They did not find that higher religiousness benefits marital outcomes directly. Although these findings do not support the idea that religious activities are directly associated with stronger relationships, the data did show that religiousness can contribute to expressed relational virtue, and relational virtue in turn is associated with marital well-being.

Key Words: marital equality, marital well-being, relational virtue, religion.

Several researchers (Bartkowski, 2001; Edgell, 2005; Mahoney, 2010; Thornton, 1985; Wilcox & Wolfinger, 2008) have found a positive but modest connection between couple well-being and religiousness. In the United States, both religious affiliation and religiousness continue to be reported by a majority of the population (Pew Research Center, 2012). Less is known, however, about how religiousness may strengthen or dampen couple relational well-being. The overall goal of this research was to explore how religiousness is associated both directly and indirectly with marital quality, marital stability, and relational aggression as part of a meditational process model.

Mahoney (2010) hypothesized that religiousness promotes forgiveness, commitment, and sacrifice, and the implementation of those types of relational virtues in turn increases marital well-being independent of other benefits, such as social connection. Conversely, other researchers (e.g., Dobash & Dobash, 1 983) have posited that religiousness has historically promoted patriarchal inequality. Their claim is that, historically, religious organizations have indirectly harmed marital relationships by promoting practices that encourage or reinforce male dominance.

In the current study, we sought to confirm the already-established finding that religiousness has a positive association with marital wellbeing. Second, we explored the more specific hypothesis that the process through which religiousness is associated with marital well-being is through the promotion of relational virtues (forgiveness, commitment, and sacrifice), which is connected to better marital quality. Third, we explored whether greater religiousness is associated with increased martial inequality and whether inequality, in turn, is related to reports of decreased marital well-being. To that end, we investigated whether the positive association between religiousness and marital well-being is neutralized or even reversed when religiousness is also associated with higher levels of relational inequality.


Mahoney (2010) proposed the relational spiritual framework and hypothesized that religious activity can be a source of strength as family members build a relationship with the ' 'divine." She suggested that affiliation is less important than individual spiritual transformation but can be a principal element when considering the connections between spirituality and relationship well-being. In addition, this framework suggests that religiousness indirectly benefits couple well-being as mediated by relational virtues. In like manner, Wilcox (2004) anticipated the development of Mahoney' s relational spiritual framework, noting that

religion . . . may be associated with other cultural and social factors that foster marital emotional work on the part of men [Religious activity] promotes a familistic approach to marriage that valorizes norms like commitment and sacrifice, (p. …

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