Why Religion Helps and Harms Families: A Conceptual Model of a System of Dualities at the Nexus of Faith and Family Life


family, outcomes, religion, spirituality, theory, well-being


Evidence suggests that religion can both help and harm families. We posit that a central reason for these divergent outcomes is a system of dualities at the nexus of religion and family. We propose a conceptual framework of a dynamic system of religious and relational dualities. We propose eight dualities: (a) transcendent and mundane spiritual experiences may affect families, (b) families may experience God as a close confidant and an authority figure, (c) religion in families may involve accepting and refusing actions, (d) religion in families may include religious expectations and relational compensators, (e) religion in families may generate and address relational struggles, (f) religion in families may be relationally divisive and unifying, (g) religion in families may bring perplexing mysteries and profound meanings, and (h) religion in families may be a transforming and a maintaining influence. We discuss how these dualities lead to outcomes that help and harm families.

Original Publication Citation

Dollahite, D. C., Marks, L. D., & *Dalton, H. (2018). Why religion helps and harms: Duality and divergence at the nexus of faith and family life. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 10, 219-241.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Family Theory & Review




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor