An interpretive phenomenological analysis of religious coping and relationship with god among older adults with functional impairments
This study represents a qualitative exploration of several phenomena within religious coping. The aims of this study were threefold. First was to evaluate the nature of older adults' relationship with God and their God-person interaction style. In addition, we sought to understand how control and acceptance were experienced in this context. Second, this study aimed to explore participants' understanding of a standard measure of religious coping. Third, this study aimed to explore potential areas of divergence in the nature of study phenomena between African American and White participants. Guided by hermeneutic phenomenology, 25 interviews were conducted (13 African American, 12 White). Cognitive interviews evaluating understanding of a survey measure (RCOPE) of one's relationship with God were conducted to qualitatively inform quantitative research with this oft-used measure and to explore racial/ethnic divergences within its factors. Results of phenomenological analyses included a thorough description and interpretation of one's relationship with God (themes included: intimacy with and presence of God), the use of one's relationship with God when coping (themes: communication to and from God, reliance on God, God provides), and the experience of incorporating this relationship throughout the coping process (themes: My part, faith, God's will, God's time, relinquish, acceptance and control). Emergent themes were discussed within the framework of the motivational theory of lifespan development and the transactional theory of stress and coping. Participants' coping represented both primary and secondary control processes as well as problem-, emotion-, and meaning-focused coping. One's perception of God's will and God's time were interpreted as essential elements with significant implications for one's ability to accept one's situation. African Americans reported a distinct intimacy with God defined by God's enhanced knowledge of them. Novel understanding of participants' comprehension and response-formation processes of an RCOPE subscale were explored. The need for another factor was delineated through the exploration of participants' construct-incongruent comprehension of the collaborative coping items. The factor would be less indicative of a relationship defined by equality. This factor was salient among African Americans. Furthermore, adding a factor assessing relinquishing prior to reaching one's level of perceived restraints was indicated from the results.