Religious Worldviews and Stressful Encounters: Reciprocal Influence from a Meaning-Making Perspective

  • Crystal L. Park
  • Donald Edmondson
  • Mary Alice Mills


The goal of this chapter is to explore religion and spirituality (R/S) in the context of stressful life events. In particular, we examine two primary issues: (1) how R/S influences people’s appraisal of, and coping with, both normative transitions and unexpected crises, and (2) as part of the coping process, how life transitions and crises influence individuals’ subsequent R/S. We begin with a description of the meaning-making framework of stress and coping (Park and Folkman 1997; Park 2005a) and describe how religiousness/spirituality is a central part of this framework for many people. We then use this framework to integrate theory and empirical literature on these two primary issues. The meaning-making framework is broad enough to encompass the coping challenges that are considered within both the stressful life events approach and the developmental or normative transition approach. This broader framework, therefore, includes positive events that may be stressful but that are sought after (e.g., college, marriage), as well as negative life events. While many have noted the role of religious beliefs in transforming the appraisal or interpretation of negative events (e.g., Pargament 1997), we propose that the interaction of R/S meaning systems and stressful life events is best conceptualized as an ongoing and recursive process of mutual influence (see Fig. 25-1). This chapter will examine the existing empirical research relevant to the recursivity hypothesis and conclude with suggestions for future research.


Religious Belief Traumatic Event Stressful Event Stressful Life Event Religious Coping 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Crystal L. Park
    • 1
  • Donald Edmondson
  • Mary Alice Mills
  1. 1.University of ConnecticutConnecticutUSA

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