Master's Project Title:

Religious Affiliation, Intimate Partner Violence, and Depression Risk

MCH Student:

Julia Shumway

Date of Defense:

January 17, 2013


Background: Affiliates of conservative Christian denominations are more likely to hold traditional gender attitudes, which may interact with intimate partner violence (IPV) to increase a woman ’ s risk for depression.

Purpose: To describe the relation between women’s religious affiliation, occurrence of IPV within the past year, and depressive symptoms.

Methods: This study included women from the Add Health Wave IV public data set reporting either Christian or no religious affiliation. Christian denominations were aggregated into five groups: Baptists; Black Protestants; Catholics; Evangelical and other Conservative Christians; and Mainline and Other Christians. A ten – question variant of the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies Depression screening tool (CESD10) was used to score participants on a scale from 0 to 30. A weighted logistic regression model was run to examine the crude association between religious affiliation and outcome measure CESD10 ≥ 8, a marker of prevalent depression. Additional models also adjusted for educational attainment, age, and recent IPV. Interactions between religious group and educational attainment, and religious group and IPV were tested.

Results: Religion had a significantly protective effect against  depression ( χ Ç  of 13.81 with 5 degrees of freedom, p<.05). The protective effect of religious affiliation varied depending on denominational group. The effect was quite similar for Baptists (OR=0.605, p<.05), Evangelical and other Conservative Christians ( OR=0.602, p<.05), and Mainline & Other Christians (OR=0.718, p<.05). The protective effect for Catholics was not statistically significant (p=0.1542), nor was the effect for Black Protestants (p=0.5983). The association between religious group and depression did not vary by either IPV or education. IPV was a significant independent risk factor for depression (OR=1.787, p<.0001). Educational attainment had a stronger protective effect with increasing level (OR=0.491, p<.001 for High School graduates, and OR= .273, p<.0001 for university graduates). Age was not associated with depression.

Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that religion has a significant protective association with depressive symptoms and that this protective effect varies depending on religious denomination.