religious experiences; family relationships; transcendent experiences


Research on the relationship between religion, spirituality, and health suggests that religious involvement can help people deal with various kinds of adversity. Although there has been a great deal of work on the influence of religious involvement and religious and spiritual practices on physical, mental, and relational health, there exists a gap in the theoretical and empirical literature about the potential benefits of transcendent religious experiences on marriage and family relationships. We report some findings from a study of in-depth interviews with 198 religious American exemplar families from diverse religious, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds. The religious-ethnic make-up of the sample included: African American Christian (13%), Asian Christian (12%); Catholic and Orthodox Christian (11%), White Evangelical Christian (12%), White Mainline Christian (10%), Latter-day Saint (LDS, Mormon), (14%), Jewish (16%), and Muslim (12%). Systematic group coding resulted in the findings that, during times of adversity, transcendent religious experiences reportedly (a) provided relational meaning, (b) increased relational depth, (c) healed relational hurt, and (d) encouraged relational action. We suggest implications for theory, research, clinical practice, and pastoral work.

Original Publication Citation

Dollahite, D. C., Marks, L. D., Banford Witting, A., *LeBaron, A. B., *Young, K. P., & *Chelladurai, J. M. (forthcoming). Relationship-enhancing transcendent religious experiences encourage relational meaning, depth, healing, and action. Religions.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor