Theses Doctoral

Spirituality and Depression in Young Adult Survivors of Childhood Physical and Sexual Abuse

Jacobs, Martha Crosby

There has been a large body of literature on the robust protective benefits of religion and spirituality against mental illness. The majority of these studies have looked at the buffering effects of religiosity against depression and the positive association between a religious worldview and wellbeing. A primary understanding of this relationship has been that religiosity increases one's ability to cope with life's stress as well as make meaning out of suffering yet little research has been done with survivors of trauma, a population at increased risk for mental illness. Furthermore, there is evidence that the pathway to developing the protective buffer of intrinsic religiosity inherently includes periods of depression and spiritual searching which serve as the catalyst for the process yet it is not well understood how trauma may impact this development. The primary aims of this study are to investigate the relationship between religiosity and depression in adult survivors of childhood physical and sexual abuse across several religious and spiritual dimensions. Results suggest that 1) In the overall sample, high attendance and high religious faith importance are protective against a diagnosis of depression while high spiritual life importance, having a religious experience, childhood physical abuse, and childhood sexual abuse are associated with a depression diagnosis; 2) For individuals without a reported abuse history, high attendance and high religious faith importance are protective against depression while having a religious experience and rating one's spiritual life as highly important were shown to be associated with depression; 3) Childhood physical abuse significantly impacts the protective relationship between high attendance and depression diagnosis and high religious faith importance and depression diagnosis and survivors of childhood physical abuse who also rated their religious faith as important and reported high attendance were more likely to have a depression diagnosis; 4) When childhood physical abuse survivors endorse strongly agreeing that their religious/spiritual beliefs are a guide to daily living they are less likely to have a diagnosis of depression; 5) In survivors of childhood sexual abuse, high religious faith importance and being led spiritually are protective against a depression diagnosis.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Clinical Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Miller, Lisa
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 3, 2014