Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Parental Resources


The relevant findings about the influence of religiosity on parental outcomes via their effects on parental resources are presented in Table 3-2. While a majority of the studies reviewed discuss parental resources as a pathway or mediating influence between religiosity and parenting outcomes, empirical examination of these relationships is the focal point for only four of the studies.

Hill, Burdette, Regnerus, and Angel (2008) hypothesize that religious involvement influences parenting outcomes through three primary pathwaysincreased social supports, higher self-esteem, and reduced psychological distress. Religious involvement is hypothesized to bolster maternal social support by increasing access to social networks and resources.

As noted in Table 3-2, there is a statistically significant effect of religious attendance on parental satisfaction, perceived demands, and distress for low-income, urban mothers (Hill et al., 2008). In addition, social support, self-esteem, and depression each mediate the relationship between religious attendance and parenting outcomes for low-income urban mothers. Interestingly, these factors relate differently to the different parenting outcomes measured. For example, while social support is not a significant mediating factor for parental satisfaction, it is significant for parental perceived demands and distress. This study concludes that this finding suggests that religious involvement is more than an indicator of certain dispositional characteristics, and validates the idea that religious involvement bolsters maternal resources through increased social supports.

Interestingly, the findings of Fagan and Palkovitz (2007) and Roggman, Boyce, Cook, and Cook (2002) suggest that religion may be more likely to influence cognitive and socioemotional abilities and to serve as a protective factor more for women than for men. Recall that evidence from Hill et al. (2008) indicated that maternal religiosity is positively associated with maternal social supports, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and depression; and that it mediates the association between religiosity and parenting outcomes. Roggman et al. (2002) show that, for men, relationship anxiety/social avoidance and depression do not mediate the positive associations between spiritual support or religious activity and father involvement. Similarly, Fagan and Palkovitz (2007) did not find religiosity to be a protective factor for men with risk profiles that predict low levels of paternal involvement. The discrepancies in these findings highlight the need for an integrated study of men and women to determine whether parental cognitive, socioemotional, and social outcomes operate differently depending on gender.

Table 3-2.
Religiosity and Parental Resources
Study/Data Source Relevant Findings
Religious involvement and attitudes toward parenting among low-income urban women (Hill et al., 2008)/WCF1 Project data
  • Greater religious attendance is associated with greater parental satisfaction and lower levels of perceived demands and distress.
  • Social support, self-esteem and depression each substantially mediate the religiosity effect for perceived demands and distress (only self-esteem and depression mediate the effect for satisfaction).
Unmarried, nonresident fathers' involvement with their infants: A risk and resilience perspective (Fagan & Palkovitz, 2007)/FFCW
  • Resilience (comprising employment, social support, religion, having grown up with own father) had a positive association with involvement.
  • Resilience did not moderate the relationship between relationship status and involvement or that between risk factors and involvement.
Getting dads involved: Predictors of father involvement in Early Head Start and with their children (Roggman et al., 2002)/Geographic-Convenience Sample
  • Spiritual support and religious activity had a significant positive effect on father involvement.
  • No effect for affiliation.
  • Relationship anxiety and depression did not mediate these effects.
  • WCF = Welfare, Children, and Families
  • FFCW = Fragile Families and Child Well-Being

The Wilcox (2001) study provides evidence about how religious involvement influences parenting outcomes for low-income fathers. Wilcox suggests that there are four mechanisms through which religious involvement fosters paternal involvement: (1) religion includes family-centered rituals and discourse, (2) religion offers opportunities to spend time with children, (3) churches attract families with young children, and (4) religion serves as a protective factor against stresses that harm parent-child relationships. The study findings suggest that greater religious involvement predicts that fathers will dine more frequently with their children and will be more likely to participate in youth-related activities. In contrast, religious involvement is not associated with greater one-on-one interaction, when the study controls for fathers broader social integration. While Wilcox does not examine the exact mechanisms through which religiosity influences paternal involvement, the nature of the outcomes that are affected may suggest that the pathways between religion and outcomes are more closely related to the institutional (rather than personal) dimensions of religion for fathers. Religion may be more likely to increase a fathers attention to structured, traditional family-centric activities, such as eating dinner together or being formally involved in a childs activities, than to informal bonding activities, such as one-on-one playtime.

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