Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 127–134 | Cite as

Childhood abuse and spiritual development among women religious

  • Caroline E. Smith
  • Duane F. Reinert
  • Maryanne Horne
  • Joanne M. Greer
  • Robert Wicks


Childhood abuse is known to have a negative influence on human development. This study expected to find a spiritual attitude of acceptance, as measured by the Ego Grasping Orientation scale, would help mitigate effects of childhood abuse in the realm of spiritual development. Spiritual Experience Index (SEI) scores for 350 religious women were treated as a measure of spiritual maturity. Contrary to expectation, however, the sexually and the physically abused groups with a more accepting attitude scored lower on the SEI than the abused with a more controlling attitude and the nonabused. Implications for spiritual development and well-being are discussed.


Human Development Childhood Abuse Controlling Attitude Negative Influence Spiritual Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Colarusso, C. A., and Nemiroff, R. A.,Adult Development. New York, Plenum Press, 1981; Conn, J. W.,Spirituality and Personal Maturity. Mahwah, N.J., Paulist Press, 1989; Gilligan, C.,In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1982; Helminiak, D.,Spiritual Development: An Interdisciplinary Study. Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1987; Kegan, R.,The Evolving Self. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1982; Liebert, E.,Changing Life Patterns. Mahwah, N.J., Paulist Press, 1992.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Freud, S.,Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Standard Edition. London, Hogarth Press, 1905; Erickson, E., “The Ontogeny of Ritualization.” In Lowenstein, R., Newman, L., Shur, M., and Solnit, A., eds.,Psychoanalysis, a General Psychology: Essays in Honor of Heinz Hartmann. New York, International Universities Press, 1966; Piaget, J.,The Origins of Intelligence in Children. New York, International University Press, 1952; Kohlberg, L., “Stages and Sequence: The Cognitive-Developmental Approach to Socialization.” In Gaslin, D. A., ed.,Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research. Chicago, Rand McNally, 1969; Loevinger, J.,Ego Development. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1977.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Aden, L., “Faith and the Developmental Cycle,”Pastoral Psychology, 1976, 24, 215–230; Fowler, J.,Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. San Francisco, Harper and Row, 1981; Genia, V., “The Spiritual Experience Index: A Measure of Spiritual Maturity,”Journal of Religion and Health, 1991, 30, 337–347; Kao, C.,Psychological and Religious Development: Maturity and Maturation. Lanham, MD, University Press of America, 1981; Meadow, M., and Kahoe, R.,Psychology of Religion: Religion in Individual Lives. New York, Harper and Row, 1984.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Fowler,op. cit. Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Helminiak,op. cit. Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Genia, V., “Religious Development: A Synthesis and Reformulation,”Journal of Religion and Health, 1990, 29, 85–99; Genia, “The Spiritual Experience Index: A Measure of Spiritual Maturity,”op. cit. Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Briere, J., and Runtz, M., “Symptomatology Associated with Childhood Sexual Victimization in a Nonclinical Adult Sample,”Child Abuse and Neglect, 1988, 12, 51–59; Egeland, B., Srouife, L. A., and Erickson, M., “The Developmental Consequences of Different Patterns of Maltreatment,”Child Abuse & Neglect, 1983, 7, 459–469; Cole, P.M., and Putnam, L. Y., “Effect of Incest on Self and Social Functioning: A Developmental Psychopathology Perspective,”Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1992,60, 174–184.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bass, E., and Davis, L.,The Courage to Heal. New York, Harper and Row, 1988.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Finley, J.,Merton's Palace of Nowhere. Notre Dame, Ave Maria Press, 1978; Helminiak, op. cit.; Lonergan, B.,Method in Theology. New York, Herder and Herder, 1972; Rahner, K.,The Practice of Faith. New York, Crossroads, 1986; Ulanov, A.,Receiving Woman: Studies in the Psychology and Theology of the Feminine. Philadelphia, PA, Westminster, 1981; Watts, A.,Tao, the Watercourse Way. New York, Pantheon, 1975.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ibid, p. 75.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ibid, p. 76.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Rahner,op. cit., pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Genia, “The Spiritual Experience Index: A Measure of Spiritual Maturity,” —op. cit.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Knoblauch, D., and Falconer, J., “The Relationship of a Measured Taoist Orientation to Western Personality Dimensions,”The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1986,18, 73–83.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Smith, C. E., “Effect of Childhood Abuse on Spiritual Development of Apostolic Women Religious,” Doctoral dissertation, Loyola College in Maryland, 1993.Dissertation Abstracts International, 54, 2244.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Briere, J., and Runtz, M., “Multivariate Correlates of Childhood Psychological and Physical Maltreatment Among University Women,”Journal of Abuse and Neglect, 1988,12, 331–341; Bagley, C., “Development of a Measure of Unwanted Sexual Contact in Childhood, for Use in Community Mental Health Surveys,”Psychological Reports, 1990,66, 401–402.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Genia,op. cit.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Knoblauch and Falconer,op. cit. Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Smith,op. cit. Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Knoblauch and Falconer,op. cit. Google Scholar
  21. 21.
  22. 22.
    Stifler, K., Greer, J., Sneck, W., Dovenmuehle, R., “An Empirical Investigation of the Discriminability of Reported Mystical Experiences Among Religious Contemplatives, Psychotic Inpatients, and Normal Adults,”Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1993,32, 366–372.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    May, G.,Care of Mind Care of Spirit. San Francisco, Harper and Row, 1982; Wulj, F., “Spiritual Direction.” In Rahner, K., ed.,Encyclopedia of Theology. New York, Seabury, 1975.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Institutes of Religion and Health 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline E. Smith
    • 1
  • Duane F. Reinert
    • 2
  • Maryanne Horne
    • 3
  • Joanne M. Greer
    • 3
  • Robert Wicks
    • 3
  1. 1.with the Jewish Family ServiceBuffalo
  2. 2.with the Department of PsychologyConception Seminary CollegeConception
  3. 3.the Department of Pastoral CounselingLoyola College in MarylandColumbia

Personalised recommendations