The Psychology of Spirituality & Familiy Relationships
Spiritual Resources in Coping with Pregnancy Stress: Spiritual harmony with God, self & others
Overview on Spiritual Resources in Coping in General
- In 1997, Pargament published The Psychology of Religion and Coping: Theory, Research, and Practice which documented the power and prevalence of religious and spiritual involvement in the coping process. Since that time, hundreds of studies have examined the rich and complex roles of spirituality and religion when individuals are faced with major life traumas and transitions.
- Terminology. Much of the research on spiritual resources is referred to as “positive religious coping,” but we and other researchers have begun to use the term “spiritual resources in coping" instead. Why?
- Because people who avoid organized religion have been found to rely on spiritual coping resources in times of trouble.
- Because people can draw on religious resources to pursue goals that they do not view as spiritually significant.
- See Defining Religion & Spirituality for more on our approach to defining religion & spirituality.
What empirical research has been done on Spiritual Resources in Coping with Pregnancy Stress?
- Despite considerable research on spiritual resources on other topics, almost no systematic research has focused directly on spiritual resources to cope with pregnancy stressors. Nevertheless, the Relational Spirituality Framework highlights that people may turn to spiritual resources to respond to a stressful pregnancy. A stressful pregnancy includes pregnancies with a high risk of miscarriage, unintended or unwanted pregnancies, or those that involve life-threatening medical problems for the mother or baby.
- Prior quantitative studies on spirituality and pregnancy has relied heavily on indirect measures, such as frequency of religious attendance or overall importance of religion in daily life, to gauge whether low income or unmarried women turn to and benefit from specific spiritual resources to handle pregnancy. Yet in qualitative interviews, many mothers report using faith to cope with pregnancy stressors. To encourage more in-depth research on specific spiritual resources to cope with pregnancy stressors across diverse families, we draw on research on spiritual resources with non-family stressors.
How do we define & measure Spiritual Resources in Coping with Pregnancy Stressors?
- For the purposes of this web site, spiritual resources in coping refer to seeking harmony with God/Higher Power, and within oneself and other people about spirituality and religion during stressful times.
- In this web site, we distinguish three types of spiritual resources in coping:
- Divine coping resources - seeking harmony with God/Higher power
- Internal/Intrapsychic struggles- seeking harmony within the self about spirituality & religion
- Interpersonal/Communal struggles - seeking harmony with other people about spirituality & religion (family members, friends, clergy, community members, or the larger culture)
- Researchers have used various approaches over the past 20 years to define spiritual resources to cope with stressful life events. See Constructs & Our Measures for a helpful summary of different approaching to thinking about & assessing spiritual resources.
- In our transition to parenthood study, we focused on Divine Spiritual Resources in Coping to handle parenting stressors during infancy rather than Internal or Interpersonal Spiritual Resource (see more below).
How do we define & measure Divine Spiritual Resources in Coping with Pregnancy Stressors for psychological research?
- We define Divine Spiritual Resources as seeking harmony with God when coping with a stressful pregnancy. To unpack this definition, it is useful to define harmony. We define harmony as agreement in feeling or opinion. An individual may seek harmony internally or with others when faced with stressors that threaten his or her most important goals and/or block pathways to reach those goals. When problems arise, building a strong sense of harmony internally and with others can help people rework their goals or offer useful methods to help them reach their goals despite obstacles.
- Much like people can be in harmony internally or with other people, individuals can be in harmony with God when problems arise. A stressful pregnancy can threaten cherished goals in life. An individual may seek harmony with God in interpreting why the pregnancy stressors occurred and trying to resolve the pregnancy problems. Seeking harmony in one's relationship with God can lead to behaviors, emotions and thoughts that are adaptive and helpful in some situations.
- In our transition to parenthood study, we used the following three sub-scales (three items each) from Pargament’s R-COPE to assess divine spiritual resources to cope with pregnancy problems. These nine items were mixed in with items from other sub-scales from the R-COPE. See Constructs/Our Measures for more information about the history and development of the R-COPE and Spiritual Struggles Sub-scales.
- 3 Subscales from the RCOPE on Divine Spiritual Struggles
- Instructions: The following statements describe specific ways that people might cope with stressors associated with pregnancy. As you think of the stressors you have faced in your pregnancy, how much do you use each of the following things to cope? To cope with this pregnancy, I have…
- Benevolent reappraisal subscale - redefined the stressor as a potentially beneficial part of God's larger plan
- Saw my situation as part of God’s plan.
- Tried to find a lesson from God in the event.
- Tried to see how God might be trying to strengthen me in this situation.
- Collaborative Religious Coping - seeking control through a partnership with God in problem solving
- Tried to put my plans into action together with God.
- Worked together with God as partners.
- Tried to make sense of the situation with God.
- Active Religious Surrender — an active giving up of control to God in coping
- Did my best and then turned the situation over to God.
- Did what I could and put the rest in God’s hands.
- Took control over what I could, and gave the rest up to God.
- Spiritual resources are most commonly measured by the 7-item Positive Religious Coping subscale from the Brief RCOPE (Pargament, Feuille, & Burdzy, 2011). See Constructs/Our Measures for all items on the Brief RCOPE & longer scales to more fully assess spiritual resources struggles.
How do Divine Spiritual Resources in Coping with Pregnancy help or harm during pregnancy?
- To our knowledge, our transition to parenthood study represents an initial effort to examine how much married, first-time parents rely on spiritual resources to cope with pregnancy stressors, and if they benefit from these spiritual resources. We are still conducting analyses and will post findings at a later date.
Additional Suggested Readings
- Mahoney, A. (in press). The spirituality of us: Relational spirituality in the context of family relationships. K. I., Pargament, J. J. Exline & J. W. Jones, (Eds.) APA handbook of psychology, religion, and spirituality: Vol I. American Psychological Association.
- Mahoney, A. (2010). Religion in families 1999-2009: A relational spirituality framework. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 805 – 827.
- Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., & DeMaris, A. (2009). Couples viewing marriage and pregnancy through the lens of the Sacred: A descriptive study. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 20, 1-45.
- Pargament, K. I. (1997). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research, practice. New York: Guilford Press.
- Pargament, K. I., (2007). Spiritually integrated psychotherapy: Understanding and addressing the sacred. New York: Guilford Press.
- Pargament, K. I. (2011). Religion and coping: The current state of knowledge. S. Folkman (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of stress, health, and coping (pp. 269-288) New York: Oxford University Press.