Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Generational Curse? Spiritual Appraisals, Spiritual Struggles and Risk Factors for the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Annette Mahoney, PhD (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Kenneth Pargament, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Michael Zickar, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Victoria Ekstrand, PhD (Committee Member)


Utilizing religious coping theory, this study examined the impact of religion and spirituality on documented risk factors for the future divorce of adult children of divorce. Consistent with previous research, approximately one third of the 158 college students whose parents had divorced since they were 13 years old, viewed the divorce as the loss or desecration of something sacred at the time it happened, one fourth struggled spiritually in response to this divorce at the time it happened, and just under one third reported engaging in adaptive spiritual coping at the time of the divorce. After controlling for global religiousness, relevant demographics and non-spiritual struggle and coping, several links between these religious and spiritual constructs and risk factors for future divorce emerged. Specifically, significant relationships existed between the following variables: greater retrospective spiritual struggles and both lower current conflict resolution skills and greater current spiritual decline; higher current appraisals of marriage as sacred and current lower risky attitudes towards cohabitation and sexual intercourse, marriage and divorce as well as greater current spiritual growth; greater retrospective adaptive spiritual coping and greater current conflict resolution skills. Participants’ pattern of spiritual struggle across time was also related to some risk factors for future divorce and spiritual decline. Implications of these findings are discussed as well as other expected links that did not emerge.