Positive Relational Transformation in Religious Families: Supports and Catalysts for Meaningful Change


families, family relationships, grounded theory, life course perspective, marital relationships, relational transformation, qualitative, religion, spirituality, spontaneous transformation


Objective: The purpose of this article is to qualitatively explore how religion can be a catalyst or support for positive, spontaneous transformations in families and the timing of these transformations.

Background: There is a paucity of empirical literature that discusses how positive change or transformation occurs within families independent of professional intervention. Research has shown that religion can have many positive influences on family relationships, but more research is needed that explores religion and religiosity as a transformative agent in familial relationships.

Method: Using interviews from 198 racially diverse, marriage‐based families (N = 476 participants) from Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), we employed a team‐based methodology to code and analyze accounts of positive relational transformation.

Results: Two themes relating to the timing of transformation, gradual and sudden, along with supports and catalysts for these transformations were identified from qualitative data analysis. These themes are presented with supportive illustrations.

Conclusion: For some families, religious experiences did reportedly help inspire and transform their marriages and family relationships.

Implications: This study suggests that religion can lead to positive transformation in families, and thus religion may be an effective tool families, religious leaders, and therapists can use to improve and transform family relationships.

Original Publication Citation

Spencer, A. T., Marks, L. D., & Dollahite, D. C., & *Kelley, H. H. (2020). Positive relational transformation in religious families: Supports and catalysts for meaningful change. Family Relations.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Family Relations




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor