Religion and emotional compensation: Results from a prospective study of widowhood

Stephanie L. Brown, Randolph M. Nesse, James S. House, Rebecca L. Utz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Based on recent applications of attachment theory to religion, the authors predicted that the loss of a spouse would cause widowed individuals to increase the importance of their religious/spiritual beliefs. This hypothesis was examined using the Changing Lives of Older Couples sample from which preloss measures of religiosity were available for widowed individuals and matched controls. A total of 103 widowed individuals provided follow-up data, including reports of religious beliefs and grief, at 6 months, 24 months, and 48 months after the loss. Results indicated that widowed individuals were more likely than controls to increase their religious/spiritual beliefs. This increase was associated with decreased grief but did not influence other indicators of adjustment such as depression. Finally, insecure individuals were most likely to benefit from increasing the importance of their beliefs. Results are discussed in terms of the potential value of applying psychological theory to the study of religion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1165-1174
Number of pages10
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Attachment theory
  • Bereavement
  • Grief
  • Religion
  • Widowhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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