Finding success and health through God: a study of cultural models and health among Brazilian Pentecostals
This dissertation investigates the influence of religious cultural consonance on well-being. In particular, I ask if religious conceptions of ideal acolyte identity and behavior buffer daily stressors experienced by socially and economically marginalized Brazilian Pentecostals. Between 1960 and 1985, the Protestant population of Brazil quadrupled. This expansion however, is disproportionately among Brazil's poor, disenfranchised, and minority populations. This research posits that Pentecostal communities offer an alternative cultural-landscape to create identity, power, and status--which may contradict, compensate, and even challenge the dominant norms. Thus, religious cultural consonance may be a specific mechanism that marginalized Brazilian Pentecostals utilize to mitigate the physiological and psychological stress of their daily lives. This mixed-methods research is conducted in Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil. The project utilizes two specific communities: The Assembléia de Deus (AD) and Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (IURD). The AD is theologically more sectarian than the IURD, advocating a greater separation between their faith and the secular world. This cross-cultural comparison is valuable for examining potential differences in the interaction of religiosity and sectarianism in the appraisal and embodiment of psychosocial stress. Research therefore focuses on: (1) the construction and distribution of religious cultural models of ideal personhood and lifestyle; and (2) evaluating well-being through psychological health measures in relation to religious models. This research offers an understanding of how religion influences psychological well-being. More specifically, this research empirically shows how religion is a cultural institution that can offer an alternative and attainable set of life goals and identities. By conceiving religion as composed of a series of cultural models, differential adherence or cultural consonance with religious and secular ideals can be evaluated by their influence on mental well-being. Ultimately, this research will contribute to understanding the ways culture and religion shape psychological health.