The effect of God image and religious coping on depression, well-being and alcohol use in college students

Eileen Marie McElroy, Fordham University


This study examined the unique and combined impact of three different God images (loving, controlling, and distant) and three different styles of religious problem solving (collaborative, deferring, and self-directing) on depression, well-being, alcohol use, and self-esteem in a college population. It also examined the relationship of these variables to social support and life stress. The sample consisted of 301 predominantly Catholic college students. It supports the conclusion of Hathaway and Pargament (1990) that in determining the impact of religiosity on mental health it does not matter how much one is religious, but in what way one is religious. Important sex differences emerged to suggest that different combinations of God image and religious problem solving styles are associated with adjustment or distress among men and women in distinct ways. In general, however, those with controlling or distant images of God benefit from more self-directed styles of coping with life's problems, while those with very loving images of God are not harmed, and are sometimes helped, by adopting a more passive and deferring coping style. The importance of this study is its emphasis on the multidimensional character of religiosity, the use of multiple dependent variables that proved differentially important to men and women participants, and the simultaneous application of object relations, attachment, and attributional theories to understand people's cognitive, affective, and behavioral experiences of and with God.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Religion|Public health

Recommended Citation

McElroy, Eileen Marie, "The effect of God image and religious coping on depression, well-being and alcohol use in college students" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9926893.