Invisible stronghold : the role of religion in the psychological well-being of Black Americans
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For decades now researchers and clinicians have exhibited mounting interest in understanding the mental health status of Black Americans and the socio-cultural resources that influence it. Due to its historic and continued importance in the lives of African Americans, evidence suggests that the patterns of religious expression among Black Americans have a measurable impact on a variety of physical and mental health outcomes. Nevertheless, this work is not without its limitations, including its limited focus on just the additive effects of religion on health as well as ignoring the issue of ethnic heterogeneity among Blacks in the U.S. Specifically, this work consists of three discrete chapters examining the multifaceted influence of religious involvement and stress on three dimensions of psychological well-being among Black Americans. Using two conceptual models from the life stress paradigm, this work addresses two research questions: (a) Does religion involvement offset, either partly or entirely, the effect of stress on the psychological well-being of Black Americans?, and (b) Does religious involvement buffer (or mitigate) the deleterious effects of stress on the psychological well-being of Black Americans? The questions are assessed using multiple methodologies and data from two large-scale surveys with nationally representative samples of Black Americans. The results reveal that religion plays a unique role in fostering the psychological well-being of Black Americans and may be particularly salient in the face of stress. Specifically, in the first study, religious attendance and religious support are positively associated with the life satisfaction of African Americans, while subjective religiosity was found to buffer the harmful effects of family-work conflict on life satisfaction. The second study examines the interplay of religious involvement, childhood adversity, and self-perception. The results reveal that religious attendance and subjective religiousness do indeed protect against deleterious effects childhood adversity on psychological well-being. However, other aspects of religious involvement, specifically religious upbringing, exude the opposite effect. The final chapter, on religion, racial discrimination and substance abuse, finds religious involvement deters substance abuse among Black Americans, however little support was found for religion in mitigating the effects of discrimination on substance abuse. Study implications and future directions are discussed.