religion, family relationships, qualitative, marriage


Previous research has suggested that religion can be both helpful and harmful. However, much oof the research on religion and families has employed relatively simple, distal measures of religion and has focused on predominantly only one side of the dualistic nature of religion. Drawing upon interviews with 198 religious couples (N = 396 individuals), the purpose of this study was to better understand how religion can have both a unifying and a dividing influence on marital relationships. Three overarching themes, accompanied by supporting primary qualitative data from participants, are presented. These themes include (a) how religious beliefs unite and divide marriages, (b) how religious practices unite and divide marriages, and (c) how religious communities unite and divide marriages. For the couples in this study, religion was most commonly identified as a unifying influence. However, it was also identified as having a dividing influence, including when principles were misapplied or done in excess or when ideas regarding religious beliefs, practices, and community were not shared between spouses. Implications and considerations for future research are offered.

Original Publication Citation

Kelley, H. H., Marks,L. D., & Dollahite, D. C. (2020). Uniting and dividing influences of religion in marriage among highly religious couples. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 12, 167-177.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Psychology of Religion and Spirituality




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor