Methods: This research was a secondary analysis of a cross-sectional study of 300 African American caregivers of elders conducted in a large metropolitan area in the mid-Atlantic United States. Multiple regression analyses were used to examine the relationships between three measures of religiosity (organizational, intrinsic, and personal) and two measures of adaptation to stress (coping, social support). Organized religion was measured using a combination of the 2-item scale recommended by the Fetzer Institute (2003) and a single item used in previous research (Sheridan, Bullis, Adcock, Berlin & Miller, 1992). Intrinsic religion was measured using the Intrinsic Religious Motivation Scale [IRMS] (Hoge, 1972). Personal religiosity was measured using items asking participants how frequently they engaged in four personal religious or spiritual practices. The BRIEF Cope Inventory (Carver, 1997) was used to investigate coping strategies among the study participants. The Support subscale of the Duke Stress and Support Scales (Parker, 2002) was used to measure aspects of friend and family social support.
Results: The findings of the study indicated that there were statistically significant relationships between organizational religiosity and both negative coping and friend social support. Greater participation in organized religion was related to lower use of negative coping strategies and increased friend support. The study also evinced a statistically significant relationship between personal religiosity and positive coping. More engagement in personal religious practices was related to greater use of positive coping strategies. There were no other statistically significant relationships observed.
Conclusions and Implications: Social workers can use the study results to inform the development of more effective coping strategies in their practice with clients. Additionally, the study contributes to the religion research literature, especially as it pertains to the African-American caregiving population. Findings from the current study also have implications for social work education, specifically for those students interested in a congregational field experience. Also, this study will inform social workers on ways to build and strengthen existing partnerships within the faith-based community. This research has implications for social work policy because it can aid in the development of new faith-friendly policies, especially for African American caregivers and perhaps for other races of caregivers for whom religion is important. Finally, findings from this study support the National Association of Social Workers in its efforts to close the gaps in eldercare services by lobbying for policies that will enhance the welfare of both caregivers and care recipients.