Religious affiliation and intimacy task appraisal during emerging adulthood: A comparison of Orthodox and Reform Jewish women

Brielle Stark-Adler, Fordham University


This mixed methods study assessed the similarities and differences between emerging adult Reform and Orthodox Jewish women's intimacy task appraisals. The study focused specifically on Orthodox and Reform women attending college, as this population is fully exposed to cultural norms and expectations related to finding romantic partners. For the quantitative portion of this study, 82 participants completed a life task appraisal measure, Personal Projects Analysis (PPA), which assessed their experience of the search for intimacy. For the qualitative portion, 10 women participated in semi-structured interviews guided by the method of phenomenology, and provided detailed information about the issues they encounter as they seek intimacy as well as the influence of their religious affiliation on this task. Quantitative findings indicated that Orthodox and Reform women's intimacy task appraisals differed significantly on 1 of 5 PPA subscales. This subscale, Effort/Evaluation, included items assessing personal investment in finding intimacy with a romantic partner and included an evaluative aspect, namely participants' evaluations of their own potential to successfully achieve intimacy goals and their perceptions of others' appraisals of their success. Contrary to expectations, there were no significant differences between Reform and Orthodox participants' responses on the Stress/Challenge subscale. Qualitative findings showed both similarities and differences between Orthodox and Reform women's experiences of finding intimacy. Both groups described a sense that they receive messages about intimacy from their families, religious communities, and peer groups. Orthodox women described feeling stress around community expectations to find a potential marital partner during the emerging adult years, while Reform women struggled with community expectations to date and eventually marry within the Jewish faith. Orthodox women described observations of potentially serious emotional consequences of their perceived community expectation to find a potential marital partner during emerging adulthood, including feelings of loneliness and exclusion experienced by those who do not meet expectations according to the preferred timeline. The findings suggest that emerging adult Orthodox and Reform women's experiences of achieving intimacy goals are affected by the cultural context of their religious community. They also indicate that there are unique cultural dynamics to which clinicians must attend in order to achieve competency to work with young Jewish women.

Subject Area

Religion|Social psychology|Womens studies|Clinical psychology|Judaic studies

Recommended Citation

Stark-Adler, Brielle, "Religious affiliation and intimacy task appraisal during emerging adulthood: A comparison of Orthodox and Reform Jewish women" (2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3407472.