Academic journal article Family Relations

Demand, Support, and Perception in Family-Related Stress among Protestant Clergy

Academic journal article Family Relations

Demand, Support, and Perception in Family-Related Stress among Protestant Clergy

Article excerpt

Studies of clergy have emphasized the effects of Stressors inherent to the profession and the impact of these on the minister's personal and family life. Hill's (1949) ABC-X model of family stress was employed to extend the focus to include three classes of variables: demands, social support, and perception. Results of questionnaires from a random sample of 312 Protestant clergy indicated that perception variables are more consistently correlated with outcome than were either demand or support.

Key Words: clergy, family, ministry, social support, stress, well being.

It is commonplace to observe that the well-being of families depends in part on the ministry of clergy, who not only have regular and authoritative contact with families, but who often are the first professionals to whom families turn in time of need (Weaver, Koenig, & Larson, 1997). Citing a 1988 report by the National Association of Evangelicals, Sell (1995) observed that relatively few pastors are actually intentionally engaged in family ministry. He speculated that this may be because of a reluctance to raise family issues, which in turn may stem from difficulties in the pastor's own family life. If this is the case, then more information is needed about the lives of clergy families.

Empirical studies of clergy and the social dynamics of pastoral ministry date back to at least the 1950s, with the pioneering research of Blizzard on pastors' role conflicts (e.g., 1958a, 1958b). Although some researchers since then have uncovered the benefits of being in pastoral ministry (e.g., Barna, 1993), a greater number of studies have focused more on the stressful character of the profession. For example, a recent study (Krause, Ellison, & Wulff, 1998) demonstrated that interactions of a personally critical and demanding nature in the church detrimentally affect subjective well-being and that the adverse effect is greater for clergy than for other members of the congregation.

Similarly, several researchers have examined the nature of clergy stress. In an early study, Mills and Koval (1971) found that the majority of approximately 5,000 Protestant clergy reported emotional stress that was sometimes severe, spanning the entire length of one's career. Later studies examined an array of pastoral stressors, many of which involve unrealistic and intrusive expectations pressed on clergy by their congregations (Blackbird & Wright, 1985; Bratcher, 1984; Kennedy, Eckhardt, & Goldsmith, 1984; Lee & Balswick 1989; Morris & Blanton, 1994a). Financial concerns also are frequently cited, particularly by denominational officials (Morris & Blanton, 1994b).

Pastoral stress affects the quality of family life (Morris & Blanton, 1994a). Intrusive expectations apply not only to pastors but also to their children (Lee, 1992) and their spouses, particularly the wives of male pastors (Douglas, 1965; Taylor, 1977). In one study (Barna, 1993), nearly half of the respondents agreed that pasturing had been difficult on their families, and this was one important reason reported by clergy for leaving the ministry (Jud, Mills, & Burch, 1970). Studies dealing directly with the interaction of family and career stress in these families are few (e.g., Blanton, 1992; Frame & Shehan, 1994; Kieren & Munro, 1988, 1989; Richmond, Rayburn, & Rogers, 1985).

The purpose of this study is to expand this stress-based perspective to studying clergy by offering other classes of variables for consideration. Family stress theory (Hill, 1949) suggests that a broader picture of life in the pastorate should include the demands placed on clergy, as well as the social resources at their disposal and the perceptions they have of their experiences. This study offers empirical evidence of the relevance of both of these factors over the more typical emphasis on stressors.

An Ecology of Clergy Stress and Social Support

Because clergy family stress may be approached from a variety of theoretical perspectives, use of a more consistent theoretical orientation helps to organize existing and future research. …

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