Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Empowerment or Dependency? the Religion/Religiosity–Mastery Relationship

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Empowerment or Dependency? the Religion/Religiosity–Mastery Relationship

Article excerpt

While a decreasing majority of persons identify as religious (Baker & Smith, 2009; Hout & Fischer, 2002), religion/religiosity (R/R) continues to be frequently studied in the context of psychological well-being. This large body of literature concurs that R/R variables such as attending church services (Benjamins, 2005; Krause, 2005; Levin & Chatters, 1998), perceived religiousness (Baker & Cruickshank, 2009; Idler & Kasl, 1992; Reindl Benjamins & Brown, 2004), and prayer (Krause, 1998; Levin & Chatters, 1998; Schnittker, 2003) are generally associated with positive psychological effects. While a salutary relationship between R/R and psychological well-being is normative, there exist several unanswered questions regarding the monolithic nature of this relationship. One such unanswered question is how R/R influences a person's sense of mastery. Mastery (i.e., Locus of Control, autonomy, etc.) describes the extent to which a person believes he or she controls his or her life's outcomes. Mastery is an integral component of psychological well-being (Greenfield, Vaillant, & Marks, 2009), and has been the focus of intense study (Ai, Peterson, Rodgers, & Tice, 2005a; Ai, Peterson, Rodgers, & Tice, 2005b; Gall, 2003; Greenfield et al., 2009; Jang, BorensteinGraves, Haley, Small, & Mortimer, 2003; Oates, 2013; Schieman, Nguyen, & Elliott, 2003; Schieman, Pudrovska, Pearlin, & Ellison, 2006).

At first glance, R/R would seem to have a plausible empowering effect; R/R is theorized to promote a sense of control because it provides structural consistency and structural supports, and promotes skills and competencies (Ellison & Burdette, 2011). A person in a stable environment who is supported and is selfsufficient is more likely to have a sense of empowerment than if he or she were not in such an environment. Ellison and Burdette (2011) argued that by engaging in R/R activities, a person is fostered with the sense that there is a divine source of support available. In similar research, Schieman (2010) found that persons who engage in R/R activities are more likely to believe that a deity was both actively involved in the world and had total control over the world. However, Schieman (2008) found that R/R variables moderated the relationship between sense of divine control and sense of personal control. When persons believed in divine control, they felt a diminished capacity to influence the course of their lives. In summary, one could plausibly argue that R/R is a force that empowers, or that R/R is a force that promotes dependency. Problematically, data on the R/R-mastery relationship does not clarify which explanation is accurate.

While R/R has a consistent and positive relationship with many facets of psychological well-being (e.g., Greenfield et al., 2009), the relationship that R/R has with mastery is noteworthy for its inconsistency. The relationship that R/R has with mastery can reverse in direction from study-to-study and null findings for R/R-mastery are not uncommon. For example, formal religious participation (e.g., attending church, being a member of a church) has been positively (Ellison & Burdette, 2011; Schieman, Pudrovska, & Milkie, 2005), nonsignificantly (Greenfield et al., 2009; Liu, 2009), and negatively (Greenfield et al., 2009) linked to mastery constructs. Praying/meditating has been positively (Ai et al., 2005a, 2005b; Liu, 2009; Schieman et al., 2006), nonsignifi- cantly (Ellison & Burdette, 2011; Schieman et al., 2005), and negatively (Liu, 2009) linked to mastery constructs. And perceived religiosity (i.e., importance of religiosity, perception of religiousness) has been negatively (Ai et al., 2005a, 2005b) linked to mastery constructs, while indices of religiosity have been positively linked to mastery (Oates, 2013). Whereas R/R often has a positive relationship with other indicators of psychological wellbeing, the relationship that R/R has with mastery is nonuniform. …

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