Religious Practice and Family Stability

Couples with higher levels of religiosity tend to enjoy greater marital satisfaction, fidelity, and stability with less likelihood of domestic violence. They also tend to have a higher quality of relationship with their children.

  • Marital Commitment. Couples who are more religious tend to exhibit greater marital commitment than couples who are less religious. Among a cohort of 172 newlywed couples, those who reported being more religious (measured by church attendance, importance of religious beliefs in day-to-day life, seeking spiritual comfort during difficulties, and generally being a religious person) tended to report higher levels of commitment to their spouses than peers who reported being less religious.1
  • Domestic Violence. On average, there is less likelihood of domestic violence among couples who attend church regularly than among those who do not, especially among couples whose partners have similar religious beliefs and practices. Compared with individuals who attended religious services only once a year or less, those who attended church regularly (at least once a week) were less likely to commit an act of violence against their partners. Regular attendance at religious services reduced the odds of perpetrating domestic violence by half for women and for men.2
  • Marital Satisfaction. Marital satisfaction is related to participation in religious holiday rituals. Husbands and wives who participate in religious holiday rituals tend to report higher levels of marital satisfaction than peers who do not. Husbands’ marital satisfaction was associated with the meaning of the religious rituals and wives’ marital satisfaction was associated with the practice of those rituals.3
  • Marital Fidelity. Frequency of church attendance is related to marital fidelity. Married individuals who attended religious services often were less likely to be unfaithful to their spouses than peers who attended less frequently.4
  • Community Religiosity. The presence of communities of worship in an area is associated with the incidence of divorce. Controlling for other selected factors associated with the likelihood of divorce, counties with higher concentrations of various religious denominations had a lower incidence of divorce.5
  • Paternal Relationship. Adolescents’ religiosity was related to their relationships with their fathers. Adolescents who said that religion was important in their lives tended to indicate better quality relationships with their fathers than peers who did not consider religion as being important.6
  • Maternal Relationship. The importance of religion to mothers is related to their relationships with their children. According to mothers’ reports, regardless of the frequency of their church attendance, those who considered religion to be very important in their lives tended to report a higher quality of relationship with their children than those who did not consider religion to be important.7
  • Paternal Involvement. Fathers’ religiosity was related to their relationships and involvement with their children. A greater degree of religiousness among fathers was associated with better relationships with their children, greater expectations for positive relationships in the future, investment of thought and effort into their relationships with their children, greater sense of obligation to stay in regular contact with their children, and greater likelihood of providing emotional support and unpaid assistance to their children and grandchildren. Fathers’ religiousness was measured on six dimensions, including the importance of faith, guidance provided by faith, religious attendance, religious identity, denominational affiliation, and belief in the importance of religion for their children.8
  • Cohabitation. Adolescents’ religiosity was associated with their likelihood of cohabitating. Youths who consider religion to be important in their lives and those who attend church regularly were less likely to cohabitate. This is especially true for young women. Females who attend religious services several times a week have a cohabitation rate only 14 percent as great as those who never attend.9
  • Conflict Resolution. Couples who pray together tend to reconcile conflict more easily. Spouses who prayed had decreased negativity, contempt, hostility, and emotional reactivity toward their partner during conflict.10


  1. K.T. Sullivan, “Understanding the Relationship Between Religiosity and Marriage: An Investigation of the Immediate and Longitudinal Effects of Religiosity on Newlywed Couples,” Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 15, No. 4 (2001), pp. 610-626.
  2. Christopher G. Ellison, John P. Bartkowski, and Kristin L. Anderson, “Are There Religious Variations in Domestic Violence?” Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 20, (1997), pp. 87-113.
  3. B. H. Fiese and Thomas J. Tomcho, “Finding Meaning in Religious Practices,” Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 15, No.4 (2001), pp. 597-609.
  4. A. M. Burdette, C. G. Ellison, D. E. Sherkat, and K. A. Gore, “Are There Religious Variations in Marital Infidelity?” Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 28, No. 12 (2007), pp. 1553-1581.
  5. L.C. Mullins and K. P. Brackett, “The Impact of Concentrations of Religious Denominational Affiliations on the Rate of Currently Divorced in Counties in the United States,” Journal of Family Issues 27, No. 7 (2006): 976-1000.
  6. M. D. Regnerus and A. Burdette, “Religious Change and Adolescent Family Dynamics,” The Sociological Quarterly 47, No. 47 (2006): 175-194.
  7. Lisa D. Pearce and William G. Axinn, “The Impact of Family Religious Life on the Quality of Mother-Child Relations,” American Sociological Review 63, No. 6 (December 1998): 810-828.
  8. Valerie King, “The Influence of Religion on Fathers’ Relationships with Their Children,” Journal of Marriage and Family 65, No. 2 (May 2003): 382-395.
  9. Arland Thornton, William G. Axinn, and Daniel H. Hill, “Reciprocal Effects of Religiosity, Cohabitation, and Marriage,” American Journal of Sociology 98, No. 3 (November 1992): 628-651.
  10. Mark H. Butler, Julie A. Stout, and Brandt C. Gardner, “Prayer as a Conflict Resolution Ritual: Clinical Implications of Religious Couples’ Report of Relationship, Healing Perspective, and Change Responsibility,” American Journal of Family Therapy 30, No. 1 (January/February 2002): 19-37.