Who helps? The effects of exchange, culture, and personal resources on congregational support provision

Date
2013
Authors
Ruiz, Andrea L.
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Abstract

Does receiving congregational support impact individuals' provision of support at a later time? The present study examines patterns of religious social support exchange in later life by drawing from theories of rational choice and exchange. Moreover, I propose a conceptual model of congregational support provision which examines the effects of received support at Time 1 (T1), religious participation, congregational investments, denomination, cultural values, financial stress, health impairments, and relevant covariates.

Using panel data from the Religion, Aging & Health Survey [2001, 2004], the present study focuses specifically on the influence of received emotional and instrumental support at T1 on Time 2 (T2) support provision among elderly Americans. Results highlight a notable difference between emotional and instrumental support in terms of their impact on future support provision. The receipt of emotional support at T1 is highly associated with the provision of both emotional and instrumental support at T2. Although receiving instrumental support at T1 does influence emotional support provision at T2, the effect disappears when emotional support receipt at T1 is entered into the model.

Moreover, though counterintuitive, findings show little explanatory power in the receipt of instrumental support when predicting instrumental support provision. However, receiving emotional aid consistently predicts both types of support provision at T2. While less pronounced, religious participation is also predictive of both emotional and instrumental support provision at T2. Congregational investments demonstrate strong positive associations with support provision as well. Denominational differences are also observed, such that Catholics provide less emotional and instrumental support than their Protestant counterparts. Furthermore, findings also demonstrate a race effect, such that African Americans provide more emotional support when compared to their non-Hispanic White counterparts. Financial stress and health impairments appear to have negative associations with the provision of emotional and instrumental support at T2. In short, initial congregational investments in the form of emotional support yield more robust "returns on investment" thereafter. This study at once affirms and challenges exchange and rational choice models of religious behavior.

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Keywords
Congregational Support, Religious Networks, Support Exchange
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Department
Sociology