Make your home page

Religious faith bolsters family hope and unity, study says

A study from Brigham Young University reveals that a family's religious beliefs and practices significantly foster hope and resilience, promoting unity. (Provided Photo/Nate Edwards of BYU)

(WISH) — A recently released study from Brigham Young University finds that a family’s religious beliefs and practices are a key catalyst to promote hope in the future and hope to manage personal challenges, which can help families build resiliency and unity.

To understand the relationship between religious beliefs and hope within family relations, researchers carefully analyzed in-depth interviews with nearly 200 religious families who represented a range of religions — Christian, Jewish, Muslim — and demographic features. Participants were asked questions about their family processes and religion in family life. While none of the questions inquired directly about hope, the responses offered by many families centered around hope and led researchers to categorize the respondents’ references to hope.

The findings from the study underscore the pivotal role that religious beliefs and practices play in nurturing hope within a family. Participants frequently cited their faith as a wellspring of hope, drawing strength from their belief in God’s active involvement in their lives and their conviction in an afterlife. Engaging in religious practices such as scripture reading and worship services further solidified their sense of hope, regardless of religious denomination.

“One of the main things I take away from this study is how much commonality there is across faiths,” said David Dollahite, BYU family life professor and co-author, in a news release from the university. “The overarching message from our research is that faith and religion and belief, when taken seriously, produce profound similarities, including increased hope for the future and hope in God’s plan for their family. Highly religious people across faiths have a lot in common.”

Notably, in 39% of the hope-related discussions, hope was characterized as a familial trait and value — a collective “our hope.”

Parents expressed a strong desire to instill hope in their children, recognizing the positive impact it had on their ability to navigate life’s challenges.

Moreover, hope was found to fortify marital bonds and mitigate conflicts.

“We’re finding that virtues instilled as part of a religious family are very relational,” Dollahite said in the news release. “While there have been news stories about the epidemic of loneliness in society, our research shows the power that faith and religion have in strengthening relationships. Faith and family are a powerful antidote to loneliness. Faith and family can bring hope and can be a remedy to some of the main issues we see in society.”

Deepening our understanding of hope has positive benefits for individuals and societies, said Joe Chelladurai, a former BYU doctoral student who co-authored the paper.

“There is passive and active hope. Active hope is something that can be developed,” Chelladurai said in the news release. “I feel that developing hope during times of normalcy can help prepare someone when they face difficult challenges. According to C.R. Snyder, the pioneer of hope theory, hope involves three aspects: goals; way power, or the ability to creatively find more than one way towards a goal; and willpower, or the motivation to try. One way to develop hope is by strengthening each of these aspects when things get hard and cognitive load and psychological tunnel vision set in.”

Researchers identified four main themes in the ways families expressed how religious beliefs inspired their hope:

  • Faith and religious belief prompt hope
  • Religious practices inspire hope.
  • Hope can be a familial trait.
  • Hope builds resilience.

The research found that the primary ways that the participants experienced religious hope was through a hope for the future and a hope to overcome challenges, not only individually, but as a family unit.