Spirituality and Religiosity in a Sample of African American Elders: A Life Story Approach

University of Notre Dame
Journal of Adult Development (Impact Factor: 0.6). 03/2002; 9(2):141-154. DOI: 10.1023/A:1015789513985

ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to examine reserve capacity in minority elderly and to identify the protective factors that promoted more optimal outcomes even in the face of a life filled with adversity. These notions were examined using life stories or personal accounts of the important events and experiences that shape an individual's development. Life story interviews were conducted with 10 African American elders (aged 58–88). Tape-recorded interviews were examined for thematic content. One of the themes that emerged as being important to participants' reserve potential comprised spirituality and religiosity. As described by the respondents, spirituality and religiosity were used as a reserve resource from which they were able to draw in times of stress, thus allowing them to grow as a result of their hardships. Overall, this research has important implications. For example, the methodology provided the opportunity to assess the process by which spirituality and religiosity contribute to well-being, either indirectly as a coping mechanism or as means of garnering social support, or more directly, via enhancing a sense of self. Descriptive accounts of this type can help to elucidate how protective factors promote more optimal outcomes and ultimately inform intervention strategies.

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    ABSTRACT: This study examines the influence of acculturative stress on substance use and HIV risk behaviors among recent Latino immigrants. The central hypothesis of the study is that specific religious coping mechanisms influence the relationship that acculturative stress has on the substance use and HIV-risk behaviors of recent Latino immigrants. Within the Latino culture religiosity is a pervasive force, guiding attitudes, behaviors, and even social interactions. When controlling for education and socioeconomic status, Latinos have been found to use religious coping mechanisms more frequently than their Non-Latino White counterparts. In addition, less acculturated Latinos use religious coping strategies more frequently than those with higher levels of acculturation. Given its prominent role in Latino culture, it appears probable that this mechanism may prove to be influential during difficult life transitions, such as those experienced during the immigration process. This study examines the moderating influence of specific religious coping mechanisms on the relationship between acculturative stress and substance use/HIV risk behaviors of recent Latino immigrants. Analyses for the present study were conducted with wave 2 data from an ongoing longitudinal study investigating associations between pre-immigration factors and health behavior trajectories of recent Latino immigrants. Structural equation and zero-inflated Poisson modeling were implemented to test the specified models and examine the nature of the relationship among the variables. Moderating effects were found for negative religious coping. Higher levels of negative religious coping strengthened an inverse relationship between acculturative stress and substance use. Results also indicated direct relationships between religious coping mechanisms and substance use. External and positive religious coping were inversely related to substance use. Negative religious coping was positively related to substance use. This study aims to contribute knowledge of how religious coping influence's the adaptation process of recent Latino immigrants. Expanding scientific understanding as to the function and effect of these coping mechanisms could lead to enhanced culturally relevant approaches in service delivery among Latino populations. Furthermore this knowledge could inform research about specific cognitions and behaviors that need to be targeted in prevention and treatment programs with this population.^


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