The effect of trauma on religious beliefs: a structured literature review and meta-analysis

Leo, Darius and Izadikhah, Zahra and Fein, Erich and Forooshani, Sayedhabib (2019) The effect of trauma on religious beliefs: a structured literature review and meta-analysis. Trauma, Violence and Abuse. pp. 1-15. ISSN 1524-8380


Introduction: Empirical research has shown that religious beliefs support people recovering from traumatic experiences. However, there is relatively little research on the inversion of this dynamic, the way that trauma changes a person’s religious beliefs. The authors of this paper conducted a structured literature review and meta-analysis of published quantitative and qualitative literature related to the effects of interpersonal trauma on religious beliefs in adults. Their aims were to determine whether religious beliefs act as cognitive schemas, to support or reject the “shattered assumptions” hypothesis (Janoff-Bulman, 2010), and to assess whether PTSD symptoms have an additive effect on changing beliefs.

Method: Five academic databases were searched using permutations of the keywords: Religion, Trauma, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The resulting references were compared to predetermined inclusion/exclusion criteria, and the reference lists of these papers were also searched for additional matches. Included papers were then subjected to a meta-analysis.

Results: Five quantitative, two qualitative, and two mixed-methodologies papers were matched. Aggravated analyzes confirmed the hypothesized effect (r = 0.19, p < 0.05).

Conclusions: The reviewed literature suggests that most people do not change their religious beliefs after a trauma, but significant changes occur for a smaller proportion of people—either increasing or decreasing their religious beliefs. These effects are greatest for people who develop PTSD. This review supports the shattered assumptions hypothesis of Janoff-Bulman; explains the cognitive mechanisms of change; and proposes a model for the additive effects of PTSD.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: ArticleFirst version cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Psychology and Counselling
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2019 04:13
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2019 06:09
Uncontrolled Keywords: religion, trauma, PTSD, schema, shattered assumptions, structured literature review, SLR, meta-analysis
Fields of Research : 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170113 Social and Community Psychology
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170111 Psychology of Religion
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1177/1524838019834076

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