Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


College Students' Spiritual Resources and Struggles in Coping with Intimate Partner Verbal Aggression: A Longitudinal Study

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Annette Mahoney (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Stephen Demuth (Other)

Third Advisor

Kenneth Pargament (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Anne Gordon (Committee Member)


To my knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study to examine how college students’ use of religious/spiritual strategies to cope with being the target of verbal aggression by a romantic partner may change the frequency of verbal aggression by both partners over the following year and contribute to whether the couple split up or stayed together. Predictor variables included religious/spiritual resources to cope effectively with partner aggression as well as religious/spiritual struggles in response to being the target of verbal hostility by a partner. The sample was comprised of 60 college students who indicated at Time 1 (T1) that that they were in a current romantic relationship were they had been the target of at least once incident of verbal aggression from a romantic partner in the prior year and who then completed measures one year later at Time 2 (T2; 21% retention rate of eligible participants). At both T1 and T2, participants reported the frequency of verbal aggression by both partners and whether the relationship was intact. Correlational analyses did not yield any significant links between religious/spiritual strategies to cope with verbal aggression by the partner at T1 and subsequent verbal aggression by either partner or relationship status. Possible reasons for the non-significant results could be the very low base rates of verbal aggression among couples in this sample and low levels of religious coping. Follow-up analyses indicated that subjects who participated in both waves of data collection reported attending more religious services and praying more often, but utilizing collaborative R/S coping mechanisms less often at T1 to deal with verbal aggression from their partner compared to T1 subjects who did not participate in T2 data collection.