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Religion in the Lives of African Americans

Religion in the Lives of African Americans
Social, Psychological, and Health Perspectives

August 2003 | 320 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Deriving conclusions from the National Survey of Black Americans and several additional wide-ranging surveys, Religion in the Lives of African Americans examines broad issues: patterns of religious involvement; the functions of religion in coping, social support, etc.; and the relationships between religion and physical and mental health and well-being.

Since the early 1900s, there has been ongoing academic interest in the nature, patterns, and functions of religion in the lives of African Americans because of the pervasiveness and persistence of the religious context in the lives of individuals, families and communities for this population group. This book enhances and furthers such academic interest by presenting a comprehensive, integrated analysis based upon rigorous, systematic survey research. The authors provide readers with an authoritative profile of the importance of religious involvement in relation to diverse forms of behaviours, attitudes and perceptions.

James S. Jackson
1. Introduction
Goals for the Book

Data Sources

Format and Scope of the Volume

Part I: Patterns of Religion
2. African American Religious Participation
Overview of Chapter

The Interface Between Religiosity and Spirituality

Models of Religious Involvement in Black Churches

Socio-Historical Role of the Church

Religious Denomination

Denominational Switching

Generational Differences in Religious Denomination

Conceptualization and Measurement of Religious Involvement

Structural Determinants of Religious Involvement

Profile of Religious Participation

Black-White Differences

Gender Differences

Age Differences

Marital Status Differences

Education and Income Differences

Regional and Urban-Rural Differences

Denominational Differences in Religious Participation

Physical Health Differences

Religious Participation Among Elderly Blacks

Religious Participation Among Blacks Adolescents

Religious Noninvolvement

Religious Artifacts

Religious Identity

Focus Group Findings


Reading Religious Materials

Religious Programming


Religious Participation in the Context of Work

Living in a Christ-Like Manner

Volunteerism as a Form of Religious Participation

Organized Religious Activities

Focus Group Summary

Chapter Summary and Conclusion

3. The Frequency and Importance of Prayer
Research on Prayer

Research on Prayer Among Black Americans

Requests for Prayer

Focus Group Findings

Communication and Relationship With God

God as Best Friend

Meditation and Prayer

Prayers of Thanksgiving

Prayers of Petition

Prayer as Intercession

Writing Down One's Prayers

The Importance of Prayer

The Power of Prayer

Focus Group Summary

Chapter Summary and Conclusion

Part II: Functions of Religion
4. Prayer as a Source of Coping
Coping With Personal Problems

Prayer and Coping With Life Problems

Religious Coping and Caregiving

Religious Coping and Health and Illness

Harmful Effects of Religious Coping

Prayer and Coping Among Black Americans

Focus Group Findings

Prayer Is an Ongoing Coping Activity

Interpersonal Conflicts on the Job

Prayer Gives Strength, Wisdom, and Guidance

Prayer Reduces Stress

Spiritual Component of Prayer

Loving Your Enemies/Forgiveness

Power of Prayer

Focus Group Summary

Chapter Summary and Conclusion

5. Use of Ministers for Personal Problems
Clergy and Formal Support Systems

Clergy as a Coping Resource

Survey Data on the Use of Ministers

Focus Group Findings

Patterns and Circumstances of Using Ministers

Deciding to Forgo Clergy Help

Choosing to Disclose Difficult Problems

Focus Group Summary

Chapter Summary and Conclusion

6. Church Members as a Source of Social Support
Church-Based Informal Social Support

Family and Church Support

Profile of the Receipt of Support From Church Members

Focus Group Findings

Church Members Provide Instrumental and Emotional Support

Importance of Building Relationships With Church Members

Importance of Having Church Members Provide Support

Similarity Between Church Members and Family Members

Formal Programs in the Church

Reciprocal Relationships

Giving Help to Church Members

Difficulty in Giving and Receiving Help

Focus Group Summary

Chapter Summary and Conclusion

7. Negative Interaction Among Church Members
Research on Negative Interaction

Negative Interaction Among African Americans

Negative Interaction Among Church Members

Survey Findings on Negative Interaction Among Church Members

Focus Group Findings

Church Members, Like Family Members, Have Conflict


Avoiding Gossip

Generational Differences

Conflict Over Special Programs and Board Meetings

Losing Church Members Because of Conflict

Avoiding Conflict

Feeling Unwelcome

Helping People Feel Welcome

Other Concerns

Problems in Church Do Not Inhibit Attendance and Participation

Focus Group Summary

Chapter Summary and Conclusion

Part III: Effects of Religion
8. Impact of Religion on Physical Health
Research on Religion and Health

Religion and Health in African Americans

Religion and Morbidity in Study Samples of Whites and Blacks

Religion and Morbidity in African American Study Samples

Religion and Mortality in African Americans

Religion, Race, and Health: Theoretical Considerations

9. Impact of Religion on Mental Health and Well-Being
Religion and Mental Health: Clinical and Population-Based Research

Religion, Aging, and Psychological Well-Being

Religion, Mental Health, and Well-Being in African Americans

Studies in Which Effects of Race Are Controlled

Religion and Mental-Health Outcomes

Religion and Psychological Well-Being

Studies That Investigate Racial Differences

African American Study Samples

Religion and Depressive Symptoms

Religion and Positive Well-Being

Religion, Race, and Mental Health: Directions for Future Research

10. Conclusions and Implications
Chapter Review and Implications

Current Research Projects

Appendix A: Data Sources
Appendix B: Multivariate Tables
Recommended Reading and Resource Guide
Author Index
Subject Index
About the Authors

"This is a blockbuster of a book on black religion. Comprehensive, systematic, analytic, and very well written, it sets a new high water mark in the social scientific study of religion and life in the African American Community. It will be especially helpful in the teaching of undergraduate and graduate courses in African American history and culture."

Andrew Billingsley
University of South Carolina

"This is an outstanding book that provides the reader with an in-depth understanding of religion in the lives of African Americans. Both historical and empirical research findings provide a context for understanding religion in the lives of African Americans. Most importantly, this book highlights the role religion plays in affecting emotional and physical health processes and outcomes among African Americans. The contributions of this book to the discussion of religion in the social and behavioral sciences will last for years!"

Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Taylor, Chatters and Levin have produced an excellent study on a neglected topic. The authors use a multidimensional framework to examine both quantitative data from several large-scale surveys of African American life and qualitative interviews from 13 focus groups. The book has helpful appendixes on data used, references, and an extensive bibliography. Highly Recommended."

L.H. Mamiya
Vassar College

Robert Joseph Taylor

Robert Joseph Taylor, MSW, Ph.D., is the Sheila Feld Collegiate Professor of Social Work and the Associate Dean for Social Work Research at the University of Michigan. He is a Faculty Associate with the Program for Research on Black Americans at the Institute for Social Research. He is also a faculty associate with the Center for Afro-American and African Studies and affiliated with the Center for Research on Race, Religion and Health at the Institute for Social Research. He is currently on the editorial board of the Journal of Marriage and the Family. Professor Taylor has published extensively in two major areas (informal social support... More About Author

Linda Marie Chatters

Linda M. Chatters, Ph.D. holds a joint position as Associate Professor in the Department of Health Behavior & Health Education at the School of Public Health and the School of Social Work. She is also a Faculty Associate with the Program for Research on Black Americans, Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. The major focus of Dr. Chatters' research is the study of adult development and aging as it relates to the mental and physical health status and social functioning of older persons in a variety of social contexts (i.e., the family, church, and community). A particular emphasis of this work has been the... More About Author

Jeff Levin

Jeff Levin, Ph.D., M.P.H., an epidemiologist and former medical school professor, is the pioneering scientist whose research beginning in the 1980s helped to create the field of religion and health. He left a successful academic career in 1997 to devote his full-time efforts to writing, research, and consulting. He was the first scientist to systematically review and critique the empirical literature on the health effects of religious involvement. His research has been funded by several NIH grants, and he also has received funding from private sources, including the American Medical Association and the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Dr.... More About Author

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