Religious Integration and Psychological Distress: Different Patterns in Emerging Adult Males and Females

  • John W. Lace
  • Kristen A. Haeberlein
  • Paul J. Handal
Original Paper


This study examined differences between male and female emerging adults on low, moderate, and high levels of religious integration in relation to psychological distress. Participants were recruited from undergraduate courses at a religiously affiliated, Midwestern university and completed the integration scale of the Personal Religious Inventory and the Langner Symptom Survey. Due to significantly higher reports of religious integration in female participants, the sample was separated by sex. A significant, negative correlation between religious integration and psychological distress was found only for females. Similarly, females in the low religious integration group reported significantly higher levels of psychological distress than females high in religious integration, while no differences were found among males. This study corroborates previous research suggesting a general link between religion and mental health, but further suggests religious integration and psychological distress are uniquely related for males and females. Possible reasons and future areas of study are noted.


Emerging adults Religion Psychological distress Sex differences 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Abdel-Khalek, A. M. (2010). Religiosity, subjective well-being, and neuroticism. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 13(1), 67–79. Scholar
  2. Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55(5), 469–480. Scholar
  3. Bartz, J. D., Richards, P. S., Smith, T. B., & Fischer, L. (2010). A 17-year longitudinal study of religion and mental health in a Mormon sample. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 13(7–8), 683–695. Scholar
  4. Bergin, A. E. (1983). Religiosity and mental health: A critical reevaluation and meta-analysis. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 14(2), 170–184. Scholar
  5. Bravo, A. J., Pearson, M. R., & Stevens, L. E. (2016). Making religiosity person-centered: A latent profile analysis of religiosity and psychological health outcomes. Personality and Individual Differences, 88, 160–169. Scholar
  6. Cochrane, R. (1980). A comparative evaluation of the symptom rating test and the Langner 22-item index for use in epidemiological surveys. Psychological Medicine, 10(01), 115–124. Scholar
  7. Cohen, J. (1992). Statistical power analysis. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1(3), 98–101. Scholar
  8. Cokley, K. O. N., Beasley, S., Holman, A., Chapman-Hilliard, C., Cody, B., Jones, B., et al. (2013). The moderating role of gender in the relationship between religiosity and mental health in a sample of black American college students. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 16(5), 445–462. Scholar
  9. Crawford, M. E., Handal, P. J., & Wiener, R. L. (1989). The relationship between religion and mental health/distress. Review of Religious Research. Scholar
  10. Creech, C., Handal, P., Worley, S., Pashak, T., Perez, E., & Caver, L. (2013). Changing trends in ritual attendance and spirituality throughout the college years. Psychology, 4, 994–997. Scholar
  11. Dezutter, J., Soenens, B., & Hutsebaut, D. (2006). Religiosity and mental health: A further exploration of the relative importance of religious behaviors vs. religious attitudes. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(4), 807–818. Scholar
  12. Dooley, D., & Catalano, R. (1979). Economic, life, and disorder changes: Time-series analyses. American Journal of Community Psychology, 7(4), 381–396. Scholar
  13. Ellison, C. G., Walker, A. B., Glenn, N. D., & Marquardt, E. (2011). The effects of parental marital discord and divorce on the religious and spiritual lives of young adults. Social Science Research, 40(2), 538–551. Scholar
  14. Francis, L. J. (1997). The psychology of gender differences in religion: A review of empirical research. Religion, 27(1), 81–96. Scholar
  15. Freud, S., Strachey, J., & Gay, P. (1989). The future of an illusion. New York, NY: Norton.Google Scholar
  16. Gallup, G., Jr., & Lindsay, D. M. (1999). Surveying the religious landscape: Trends in U.S. beliefs. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse.Google Scholar
  17. Gillings, V., & Joseph, S. (1996). Religiosity and social desirability: Impression management and self-deceptive positivity. Personality and Individual Differences, 21(6), 1047–1050. Scholar
  18. Hackney, C. H., & Sanders, G. S. (2003). Religiosity and mental health: A meta-analysis of recent studies. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42(1), 43–55. Scholar
  19. Handal, P. J., Black-Lopez, W., & Moergen, S. (1989). Preliminary investigation of the relationship between religion and psychological distress in black women. Psychological Reports, 65(3 Pt 1), 971–975. Scholar
  20. Handal, P. J., Gist, D., Gilner, F. H., & Searight, H. R. (1993). Preliminary validity for the Langner symptom survey and the brief symptom inventory as mass-screening instruments for adolescent adjustment. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 22(3), 382–386. Scholar
  21. Handal, P. J., & Lace, J. W. (2017). Differential effects of family structure on religion and spirituality of emerging adult males and females. Journal of Religion and Health, 56(4), 1361–1370. Scholar
  22. Handal, P. J., Peri, A., & Pashak, T. J. (2014). Calibration of the Langner symptom survey for the college population. Current Psychology, 34(2), 389–400. Scholar
  23. Idler, E. L. (1987). Religious involvement and the health of the elderly: Some hypotheses and an initial test. Social Forces, 66(1), 226. Scholar
  24. Koenig, H. G., King, D. E., & Carson, V. B. (2012). Handbook of religion and health. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kuyel, N., Cesur, S., & Ellison, C. G. (2012). Religious orientation and mental health: A study with Turkish university students. Psychological Reports, 110(2), 535–546. Scholar
  26. Lace, J. W., Haeberlein, K. A., & Handal, P. J. (2017). Five-factor structure of the spiritual transcendence scale and its relationship with clinical psychological distress in emerging adults. Religions, 8(10), 230. Scholar
  27. Lace, J. W., Haeberlein, K. A., & Handal, P. J. (2018). Multidimensionality of the Langner Symptom Survey and replication of a cutoff score in emerging adults. Psychological Reports. Scholar
  28. Lace, J. W., & Handal, P. J. (2017). Psychometric properties of the daily spiritual experiences scale: Support for a two-factor solution, concurrent validity, and its relationship with clinical psychological distress in university students. Religions, 8(7), 123. Scholar
  29. Langner, T. S. (1962). A 22-item screening score of psychiatric symptoms indicating impairment. Journal of Health and Human Behavior, 3, 269–276. Scholar
  30. Leak, G. K., & Fish, S. (1989). Religious orientation, impression management, and self-deception: toward a clarification of the link between religiosity and social desirability. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 28(3), 355. Scholar
  31. Lee, J. J. (2002). Religion and college attendance: Change among students. The Review of Higher Education, 25, 369–384. Scholar
  32. Lipsmeyer, M. E. (1984). The measurement of religiosity and its relationship to mental health/impairment (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO.Google Scholar
  33. Low, C. A., & Handal, P. J. (1995). The relationship between religion and adjustment to college. Journal of College Student Development, 36(5), 406–412.Google Scholar
  34. Milevsky, A., & Leh, M. (2008). Religiosity in emerging adulthood: Familial variables and adjustment. Journal of Adult Development, 15(1), 47–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mosher, J. P., & Handal, P. J. (1997). The relationship between religion and psychological distress in adolescents. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 25(4), 449–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ross, K., Handal, P. J., Clark, E. M., & Vander Wal, J. S. (2009). The relationship between religion and religious coping: Religious coping as a moderator between religion and adjustment. Journal of Religion and Health, 48(4), 454–467. Scholar
  37. Sanders, P. W., Allen, G. E., Fischer, L., Richards, P. S., Morgan, D. T., & Potts, R. W. (2015). Intrinsic religiousness and spirituality as predictors of mental health and positive psychological functioning in Latter-Day Saint adolescents and young adults. Journal of Religion and Health, 54(3), 871–887. Scholar
  38. Schnabel, L. (2015). How religious are American women and men? Gender differences and similarities. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 54(3), 616–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schulenberg, J. E., & Zarrett, N. R. (2006). Mental health during emerging adulthood: Continuity and discontinuity in courses, causes, and functions. In J. J. Arnett & J. L. Tanner (Eds.), Emerging adults in America: Coming of age in the 21st century (pp. 135–172). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Thompson, E. H. (1991). Beneath the status characteristic: Gender variations in religiousness. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 30(4), 381. Scholar
  41. Watterson, K., & Giesler, R. B. (2012). Religiosity and self-control: When the going gets tough, the religious get self-regulating. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 4(3), 193–205. Scholar
  42. Wong, Y. J., Rew, L., & Slaikeu, K. D. (2006). A systematic review of recent research on adolescent religiosity/spirituality and mental health. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 27(2), 161–183. Scholar
  43. Zhai, J. E., Ellison, C. G., Glenn, N. D., & Marquardt, E. (2007). Parental divorce and religious involvement among young adults. Sociology of Religion, 68(2), 125–144. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John W. Lace
    • 1
  • Kristen A. Haeberlein
    • 1
  • Paul J. Handal
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations