Religiosity and social support: Sex differences among divorced and widowed families

by Flanigan, Nadia N., Ph.D., THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY, 2011, 101 pages; 3477225


Recent demographic trends such as high divorce rates and increased life expectancy will likely lead to an increase in the number of divorced and widowed older adults in the future. Compared to married adults, divorced and widowed adults may rely more on adult children for support due to the absence of a spouse. Divorced and widowed adults have a higher likelihood of being institutionalized in late life, so it is important to understand the factors that influence adult children’s provision of support to these parents. Other trends such as higher costs of living and nonmarital births suggest that adult children may also be relying on support from their parents for longer periods. Evidence shows that religiosity influences exchanges of support in continuously married and divorced families, but the link between religiosity and support has not been examined for divorced and widowed families. Data from 1,162 parent-adult child dyads from Waves 1 and 2 of the National Survey of Families and Households were used to examine the role of religiosity in the support that adult children exchange with divorced and widowed parents using a family life course perspective and any sex differences in these exchanges. Measures of religiosity included adult children’s religious affiliation, adult children’s and parents’ public religiosity, congruence in public religiosity between adult children and parents, and changes in adult children’s religiosity. Social support consisted of emotional and instrumental support from the adult child’s perspective. Overall, religiosity influenced adult children’s provision of support more than their receipt, but religiosity accounted for little of the variance in provision and receipt of support after the control variables were considered. Being Catholic was associated with providing more support, and Catholics provided more support to divorced parents than did conservative Protestants. The influence of other religious affiliations on provision of support differed for sons and daughters but not by parents’ marital status. Adult children with higher levels of public religiosity gave more support to parents than did those with lower levels of public religiosity, particularly in widowed families. Parents’ public religiosity and congruence in public religiosity were unrelated to exchanges of support. Consistently high church attendance was not associated with providing more support, but it was associated with receiving more support compared to consistently low attendance. Additionally, the influence of increased church attendance on receipt of support depended on parents’ marital status and adult children’s sex. Future research in this area should examine other measures of religiosity and social support.

AdviserB. Kay Pasley
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsReligion; Individual & family studies
Publication Number3477225

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