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Theses Doctoral

Interpersonal Religious Struggles Within Orthodox Jewish Families in Israel

Pirutinsky, Steven

Religion and spirituality are important to many and can have both positive and negative influences on psychological functioning and interpersonal relationships. While prior empirical studies suggest that religion generally influences relationships positively, differences in values and worldviews can be significant sources of conflict. These interpersonal religious struggles are neglected in current research and may be particularly relevant in religion-centric cultures such as the Orthodox Jewish community, particularly within families with adolescent children.
The current research analyzed dyadic data from 789 Orthodox Jewish couples residing throughout Israel, and explores the hypotheses that: 1) Religious conflict between Orthodox Jewish spouses is significantly related to lower family functioning, higher parenting stress, and lower community integration. 2) Among those with insecure attachment, religious conflict is more frequent and more strongly related to lower family functioning, higher parenting stress, and lower community integration. 3) Religious conflict between returnees to Orthodox Judaism ("Baalei Teshuva") is more frequent and more strongly related to lower family functioning, higher parenting stress, and lower community integration than in other Orthodox families.
Variables were measured using several previously validated scales, completed in this study by husband and wife dyads. Data were analyzed using a common factor model and parameters were estimated using structural equation modeling. Results indicated that: 1) Religious conflict was significantly associated with lower family functioning, higher parenting stress, and lower community integration. These effects were significant among husbands and wives, within non-returnee and returnee groups, and across more modern and traditional religious sub-groups. 2) Attachment insecurity was related to higher levels of religious conflict, and the effect of attachment insecurity on family outcomes was partially or fully mediated by higher levels of religious conflict. On the other hand, insecure attachment did not moderate the relationship between religious conflict and outcome variables such as family functioning, parenting stress, and community integration. 3) Returnees reported higher levels of religious conflict, but the relationship of religious conflict to outcome variables was equivalent in the returnee and non-returnee groups.
These findings suggest that within the Orthodox community religious conflict is an important correlate of family dysfunction and parenting stress across a variety of religious sub-groups and contexts. Thus, assessment and treatment of dysfunction in Orthodox Jewish families should include evaluation of religious conflicts. Religious conflict is also clinically relevant because it appears to mediate the impact of personality factors, such as insecure attachment, on families. Although psychological research increasingly acknowledges the importance of spirituality and religion, much of the research has focused on individual and intra-psychic manifestations, perhaps reflecting an individualistic cultural conception of the meaning and relevance of spirituality and religion. The current study suggests that spirituality and religion can have important interpersonal implications, particularly within the family. Future research exploring causal relationships, specific domains of religious conflict, cross-cultural relevance, and comparability to other forms of interpersonal conflict appears warranted and necessary.

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More About This Work

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