religion, minority, struggles, empathy, qualitative


More than a thousand empirical studies report positive correlations between religious involvement and various aspects oof psychological, relational, or physical health. Even so, there are also substantial costs, challenges, and negative aspects of religious involvement that warrant scholarly attention, including religion-related oppression and discrimination. The objective of this study was to provide an in-depth exploration and qualitative analysis of religion-related struggles experienced by religious minorities. A national sample of 198 diverse, religious families (N = 476 participants) were interviewed. Of the 198 families, 131 (66%) were from religious minority communities (i.e., Jewish, Muslim, or Christian minority faiths) and serve as the sample and focus of this study. Team-basked qualitative analyses indicated five recurring, religion-related sources of struggle that originated "outside the family." Core themes included (1) struggles related to difference and minority status, (2) struggles related to other religious people, (3) struggles related to misunderstanding and ignorance, (4) struggles related to the demands of the faith community, and (5) struggles related to animosity and rejection. Supporting primary data are presented to illustrate each of the five themes. From a research vantage, religious minorities are posited as a rich but often overlooked context for studying religious struggles. In terms of clinical practice, the vital import of awareness and sensitivity to religio-cultural context is underscored. With respect to educational application, pragmatic exercises that help students cross over the "empathy wall" with respect to religious minorities are recommended.

Original Publication Citation

Marks, L. D., Dollahite, D. C., & *Young, K. P. (2019). Struggles experienced by religious minority families in the United States: Strangers in their own land. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 11, 247-256.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Psychology of Religion and Spirituality




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor