Based on this initial literature review, it appears that religious denomination generally is not a significant predictor of union formation and quality while attending church frequently is associated with relationship decision making and quality in the low-income population. Depending on the outcome of interest and whether mothers and fathers are examined together or separately, these effects operate directly and indirectly by encouraging positive relationship attitudes and behaviors.
This review also demonstrates that the religiosity and spirituality literature is in the early stages of development and has great potential to expand. Further research is needed to increase understanding of whether specific religious beliefs, practices, and activities engaged in by each partner and as a couple affect marriage outcomes, as well as to provide insight into how this process unfolds. There is also room for significant methodological innovation to decrease selection bias and to support more precise causal inferences.
This review identified the following gaps in the current empirical research focusing on low-income couples:
- Limited measures of spirituality or religious beliefs and practices from diverse religions that are specific to marriage, cohabitation, and divorce.
- Limited measures of a couples individual and joint participation in secular as well as religious activities.
- A narrow focus on relationship indicators rather than a broader set of couple-reported indicators, such as multipartner fertility, fidelity, and conflicts over money.
- A lack of systematic analysis of subgroup differences by demographics, such as gender, race, ethnicity, and immigrant status as well as by economic resources.
- A lack of qualitative research focusing on a couples religious and spiritual practices at home, church, and in the community, as well as the specific norms, values, and practices about marriage and relationships at religious institutions that can inform the development of new measures of religious participation as well as mediators.
- A lack of any experimental studies to test premarital or marital enhancement interventions that build on clients religiosity or spirituality.