Kept in His Care: The Role of Perceived Divine Control in Positive Reappraisal Coping




DeAngelis, Reed T.
Ellison, Christopher G.

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A formidable body of literature suggests that numerous dimensions of religious involvement can facilitate productive coping. One common assumption in this field is that religious worldviews provide overarching frameworks of meaning by which to positively reinterpret stressors. The current study explicitly tests this assumption by examining whether perceived divine control—i.e., the notion that God controls the course and direction of one’s life—buffers the adverse effects of recent traumatic life events on one’s capacity for positive reappraisal coping. We analyze cross-sectional survey data from Vanderbilt University’s Nashville Stress and Health Study (2011–2014), a probability sample of non-Hispanic black and white adults aged 22 to 69 living in Davidson County, Tennessee (n = 1252). Findings from multivariate regression models confirm: (1) there was an inverse association between past-year traumatic life events and positive reappraisals; but (2) perceived divine control significantly attenuated this inverse association. Substantively, our findings suggest that people who believe God controls their life outcomes are better suited for positively reinterpreting traumatic experiences. Implications, limitations, and avenues for future research are discussed.



trauma, major life events, positive reappraisals, coping, resilience, stress process, religious involvement, perceived divine control


Religions 8 (8): 133 (2017)