Religion/spirituality has positive impact on marital relationships and child development

December 14th, 2014 by Dr. Keith Nemec

Adolescents who attend religious services with one or both of their parents are more likely to feel greater well-being while married couples who pray for their spouses experience greater relationship commitment, according to research.

These were among the findings of studies published in the Journal of Family Psychology looking at how spiritual beliefs or behaviors have appeared to strengthen generally happy marriages and how a person’s religious and/or spiritual functioning may influence that of his or her family members.

These studies exemplify an emerging subfield called relational spirituality, which focuses on the ways that diverse couples and families can rely on specific spiritual beliefs and behaviors, for better or worse, to motivate them to create, maintain and transform their intimate relationships.

Each of the studies moves beyond general measures of people’s involvement in organized religion or spirituality and investigates specific spiritual beliefs or behaviors that appear to influence marital adjustment and human development. All the studies present rigorous research into the roles that religion and spirituality can play in enhancing family well-being.

The studies:

  • Looking at three generations, the researchers found that mothers have the most consistently positive influence on the religious lives of their children “because they are socialized to transmit critical values, beliefs and practices across generations, and because they embrace norms of femininity that reinforce such roles.” Additionally, grandparents — especially grandmothers — play a significant role in the religious socialization of grandchildren in families, according to this research.

 

  • Low-income women who were primary caregivers of children between 8 and 12 and lived in disorderly neighborhoods experienced lower levels of parenting stress if they exhibited religious well-being, according to this study.

 

  • Attending religious services with a parent or parents in late childhood is associated with greater psychological well-being as children age, according to this study, which looked at data on 5,739 youths over 15 years. “Even though attending services with parents may not reflect youth’s own religious beliefs (as they may not have a choice in attending), it may help to increase adolescents’ feelings of connectedness to both their parents and the larger religious community.

 

  • Adolescents with access to religious resources are less likely to engage in substance abuse when coping with harsh parenting and poor self-control, these researchers found. “Religiousness may have the potential to negate the impact of high stress levels associated with experiencing harsh parenting and improve adolescent health and well-being within families who were not involved in clinical or social services for adolescent substance abuse or parental maltreatment.

 

  • Youths who had stronger relationships with God were less likely to suffer from internalizing adjustment problems, but only if their mothers used more religious coping, according to the researchers.

 

  • “Partner-focused petitionary prayer” (PFPP), in which one partner prays for the well-being of his or her romantic partner, increases the level of commitment to the relationship experienced by the praying partner. “In practical contexts, it suggests that PFPP is useful to relationships by increasing one’s own relationship quality and so can provide a helpful adjunct to other relationship enhancement activities.

 

  • The more spiritual intimacy couples say they share, the better they handle their top three topics of conflict, according to this study. Additionally, couples who viewed their marriage as sacred had more positive marital interactions. Couples’ ratings of their spiritual intimacy were based on how often they revealed their spiritual beliefs, questions and doubts to each other, and listened supportively to each other’s spiritual disclosures. It didn’t matter whether the spouses were blue-collar employees with high school educations or wealthy professionals with advanced college degrees — the results were the same.

 

  • Among older couples (average age 71), the perceived sanctity of their long-term unions predicted both husbands’ and wives’ marital satisfaction, according to this study. When wives reported that they viewed their marriage as suffused with sacred qualities, this tended to predict that both spouses would say they were more satisfied. The authors theorize that compassionate love may provide the motivation for couples to genuinely care for each other while minimizing the emotional costs traditionally associated with providing high levels of caregiving later in life.

 

Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec’s comments on “Religion/spirituality has positive impact on marital relationships and child development”:

What is the most vital component of this research on spiritual influences on children and marriages?

Women and mothers. It is shown that mothers influence the spiritual growth of children and this roots them in being the calm in the midst of the storm. Why mothers and not fathers? Are not fathers the head of the household? The answer is yes and no. The father is called by God to be the head of the household but not just because they are in the position of the father but because they are supposed to be the most spiritually mature in the family.

So why are these studies showing that women have the most influence in the spiritual lives of their children? Because it is obvious. Women are spending more time seeking God for their children and are hearing the Spirit speak to their heart on issues about their children. Also interesting to note in the one study quote: Youths who had stronger relationships with God were less likely to suffer from internalizing adjustment problems, but only if their mothers used more religious coping, according to the researchers.

What this is saying is that youths had a stronger relationship with God only if they saw their mother’s faith in trusting in God in all situations. The youths only believe what their mothers told them about God because their mothers were a witness of their faith. When the tests and trials of life hit, their mothers did not fall back but they pressed forward trusting that all the promises of God are YES and AMEN.

As is says in the book of James: faith without action steps is dead. What these youths were seeing from their mothers is them walking the walk not just talking the walk. When financial crisis came these mothers got down and their knees and thanked and praised God for all the provision that He has supplied through Christ. The children saw their mother’s stand on the Word and that Word manifest in their lives: ….my God will meet all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. And do not worry, about food or money but instead seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to us as well.

This is why mothers impact their children’s spiritual growth, it is not to say that fathers don’t because they do but sometimes in a busy world fathers get caught up with the task of being the provider and sometimes gets caught up with all the energy of “the job or business” when mothers focus more energy into the family and the children.

So what should these studies say? Both fathers and mothers equally impact their childrens spiritual lives because both fathers and mothers are equal testimonies of faith to their children.

Fathers all you have to do is get up real early in the morning to prayer and read the Word and in prayer dedicate your job or business to God, meaning it is not about you but about HIM. If it is a job then you are working for Jesus not for your boss so your work is an excellent form of worship not just trying to make a living. If it is your business then you dedicate it to God meaning it is HIS business not yours so you are working for and through HIM not for yourself.

Fathers if you start your day this way and continually dedicate your work, your life, and your family to HIM, then your name will also be mentioned in future studies right along with mothers as impacting their childrens spiritual growth and development.

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