Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lisa Armistead, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Greg Jurkovic, Ph.D. - Co-Chair

Third Advisor

Sarah Cook, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Rod Watts, Ph.D.


Sexual abuse is defined as any act which forces or coerces a child into engaging in non-consensual sexual activities that they may not understand. As child sexual abuse is recognized as a mental health and public health concern, increased research efforts have been directed towards identifying the physical, emotional, and cognitive effects of child sexual abuse. The majority of such research uses adult survivors of child sexual abuse and is quantitative, retrospective, and correlational in design. Qualitative approaches with adults are few; thus far, descriptive research with children is largely limited to forensic applications. Pargament (1997) proposes the existence of religious coping, or the introduction of the sacred in an individual’s search for significance in times of stress. Initial research efforts have begun to delineate the positive and negative religious coping strategies used within various adult populations. The purpose of the present investigation is to gain an experiential understanding of religious coping from the perspective of adolescent girls who have experienced sexual abuse. Open-ended interviews and phenomenological analysis with each of the 6 participants revealed the complexity present in their experience of religious coping. The presence of a highly relationship-based experience of religious coping is discussed and its implications for the assessment and treatment of complex posttraumatic stress disorder are explored. Finally, implications of the present investigation for the adolescent participants and members of spiritual communities are delineated.


Included in

Psychology Commons