Religiosity as a Cultural Protective Factor that Facilitates Favorable Health and Behavioral Outcomes in African American Offenders
The Research Team
Principal Investigator: Frank Pezzella, Ph.D.
Research Assistants: Sophia Vlahos (BA, Class 2012), Dyanand Vashtie (BA, Class 2012), Quanisha Simmons (BA, Class 2013)
Overview: This study examines whether religiosity protects against poor health outcomes among formerly black and Latino parolees. More specifically, it analyzes different dimensions of religiosity and conceptualizes religious attendance and salience as cultural protective factors that differentially enable successful
and healthy reentry outcomes. Successful reentry will be measured as living health-wise and law abiding lives.
Religiosity and Health: The hypothesis that religiosity differentially facilitates resilient outcomes in African American offenders proposes that it will alter risk trajectories towards poor health and behavioral outcomes. Contemporary studies of resilience operate within an epidemiological tradition by focusing on the incidence and prevalence of survivorship. A focus on the narrow contexts of protective mechanisms will give practical insight into the potential of resilience as a intervention strategy. Rutter’s seminal epidemiological study of psychiatric resilience, found competent mental functioning in high-risk schizophrenic offspring, the product of factors that modified a person’s response to environmental hazards. Since Rutter, cross-disciplinary research efforts now examine circumstances surrounding successful adjustments including biological factors, psychological factors, social economic status, family context and processes, child abuse and neglect and ethnic variation in the onset and desistence of substance abuse. These efforts have revealed a common characteristic of all resilience studies; protective mechanisms are tailored to narrow contextual outcomes.
The hypothesis that cultural protective factors differentially serve marginalized groups provides such a narrow context. There is empirical evidence of a relationship between religiosity, race and resilient outcomes in high risk groups. Johnson et al. (2000) found religious involvement significantly buffered the effects of neighborhood disorder on serious crime among African American adolescents. Moreover, incorporating intake and one year follow up data, Chu and Sung (2009) found African American clients reported higher levels of religious involvements which correlated to their desistance from further substance abuse. In contrast, religious behavior was not a significant predictor of white client’s desistance. Clearly, religiosity modifies behavior; however, studies of this phenomenon are also scant and resilience research of religiosity as a factor in reentry outcomes of health-wise and law abiding behavior are rare. To address this void, the following research questions are presented. Does religiosity differentially interact with race to predict different reentry outcomes among African Americans, Latino and white offenders? Controlling for race/ethnicity, to what extent does religiosity neutralize health risk associated with residence in known noxious ecological environments at risk for poor health outcomes and recidivism? Does religious participation (attendance at religious worship service) or the salience of religion in one’s life predict the probability of living a heath-wise law abiding life?