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The role of religion/spirituality in building strong families: Respondents' perceptions. A qualitative, grounded theory

Dorothy Gay Wright Vela, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Most strong families have a religious basis (Bahr, 1989). How do religious beliefs and practices manifest themselves in building strong, healthy families? How are positive behaviors transferred to the succeeding generation to build a strong society? Audio-taped interviews from 14 strong families of various religions and nationalities, resulting in 2,000 pages, were analyzed according to a post-positive, qualitative, grounded theory method. Studying respondents' perceptions, the findings revealed the main teaching of all these various religions was love. Love is the basic human need for infant survival and for adult well-being (Saxton, 1993). These families practiced their religion by living the true meaning of the word love. They met needs in a healthy way, which prevented meeting needs in an unhealthy way. They created in themselves and their children a desire to do the right thing, make the right choices that lead to meaningful relationships. These choices helped family members come into harmony with religious/spiritual principles that lead to meaningful relationships, satisfying life, wholeness, and spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, and social well-being. These religious families practiced the recognized constructs of strong families: clear, honest, open communication; commitment; appreciation and affection; quality and quantity time together; coping with stress and crises successfully; and spiritual well-being, including oneness with God, family, humankind, and the world. They shared a functional religion with ethical values and principles guiding family members through life challenges. Most respondents perceived people had attributes similar to God. Nurturing these "God-like" qualities of love, soul, spirit, mind, truth, principle, and life inspired them to transcend egocentric behavior to spiritual maturity and wholeness. Their religion inspired a framework for living based on principle, which influenced the rules, roles, values, morals, and boundaries in the family. They cultivated the capacity to give and receive love. They met the deep, inner needs of the soul, such as connectedness balanced with autonomy, a congruent sense of identity, self-worth, ego integrity, trust, unconditional love, creativity, as well as expressing and understanding emotions. Rich, meaningful relationships were a top priority that met the soul's needs and created a teachable, receptive spirit in the children. Through leadership, role modeling, and balance between discipline and love, parents guided their children. The children chose to accept their parents' values by recognizing the stability, significance, and proper function. These families developed their minds to think; seek after truth and wisdom; have a vibrant spirit with acuity; experience oneness with God, nature, and others; connect to positive life energy forces to be fully alive; and contribute to a healthy society.

Subject Area

Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Cellular biology|Religion|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Vela, Dorothy Gay Wright, "The role of religion/spirituality in building strong families: Respondents' perceptions. A qualitative, grounded theory" (1996). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI9703793.