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Tara Carleton, Ralph L. Piedmont, Ph.D.

Impact of Spirituality/Religiousness on Sense of Coherence and Abortion Attitude among Women with an Unintended Pregnancy Stressor

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In the psychological literature, religious and spiritual practices have been seen as positive coping mechanisms in times of stress (e.g., Bonelli, Dew, Koenig, Rossmarin, & Vasegh, 2012). Sense of coherence, which is focused on aspects that promote health and relates to coping with different stressors, has been seen to have a positive impact on stress as well (Antonovsky, 1993). Unintended pregnancies, which include mistimed and unwanted pregnancies, have been seen as “an additional stressor during pregnancy” (Maxson & Miranda, 2011, p. 1215) for some women. The first facet of the twofold purpose of this study focused on spirituality, religiosity, and sense of coherence among women with a past unintended pregnancy. The second facet of the study focused on religiosity, spirituality, and attitude toward abortion among the sample. Religion has been seen as a prime aspect to consider when exploring attitudes toward abortion, and religious individuals have been seen to have a negative attitude toward abortion (e.g., Bartkowski, Ramos-Wada, Ellison, & Acevedo, 2012). Participants were sought at a support center, as well as through a convenience sample using a snowball sampling approach. Sixty-eight women of a variety of ages, races, and religious orientations, who had experienced an unintended pregnancy stressor, completed a pencil and paper questionnaire that contained the following: self-report short form of the Assessment of Spirituality and Religious Sentiments (ASPIRES, Piedmont et al., 2008); International Personality Item Pool (IPIP-50); Sense of Coherence Scale short form (Antonovsky, 1987), single-item Attitude Toward Abortion Scale; and a demographic questionnaire. Based on the literature, it was hypothesized that spirituality would predict sense of coherence and positive attitude toward abortion better than religiousness; religiousness would predict negative attitude toward abortion better than spirituality; educational attainment would moderate the relationship between religiousness and attitude toward abortion; and age would moderate the relationship between religiousness and attitude toward abortion. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted, controlling for personality, in accordance with Piedmont’s (2005) call to advance the field via incremental validity studies. Contrary to the hypotheses, spirituality did not predict sense of coherence or attitude toward abortion better than religiousness. Religious involvement predicting negative attitude toward abortion, however, was supported; the variable evidenced incremental validity explaining 43% of the additional variance over and above the 17% explained by personality factors, β = .71, t(60) = 6.58, p < .001, ΔR2 = .43. Linear regression analyses were performed as well and included the respective interaction terms. In both analyses, there was a significant main effect for religiosity, but contrary to the hypotheses, neither educational attainment nor age moderated the relationship between religiosity and attitude toward abortion. Findings suggest the importance of counselors exploring religion for clients with an unintended pregnancy stressor who may be contemplating an abortion. In addition, findings also signal exploring the religion of clients who are seeking healing post-abortion.

Keywords: spirituality, religiousness, sense of coherence, attitude toward abortion, unintended pregnancy


Antonovsky, A. (1993). The structure and properties of the Sense of Coherence Scale. Social Science and Medicine, 36(6), 725-733. doi:10.1016/0277-9536(93)90033-Z

Antonovsky, A. (1987). Unraveling the mystery of health: How people manage stress and stay well. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bartkowski, J.P., Ramos-Wada, A.I., Ellison, C.G., & Acevedo, G.A. (2012). Faith, race-ethnicity, and public policy preferences: Religious schemas and abortion attitudes among U.S. Latinos. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 51(2), 343-358. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2012.01645.x

Bonelli, R., Dew, R.E., Koenig, H.G., Rosmarin, D.H., & Vasegh, S. (2012). Religious and spiritual factors in depression: Review and integration of the research. Depression Research and Treatment, 2012, 1-8. doi:10.1155/2012/962860

Maxson, P. & Miranda, M.L. (2011). Pregnancy intention, demographic differences, and psychosocial health. Journal of Women’s Health, 20(8), 1215-1223. doi:10.1089/jwh.2010.2379

Piedmont, R. L. (2005). The role of personality in understanding religious and spiritual constructs. In R. F. Paloutzian and C. L. Park (Eds), The handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 253-273).  New York, NY: Guilford.

Piedmont, R.L., Kennedy, C.M., Sherman, M.F., Sherman, M.C., & Williams, J.E.G. (2008). A psychometric evaluation of the Assessment of Spirituality and Religious Sentiments (ASPIRES) Scale: Short form. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 19, 163-181. Doi: 10.1163/ej.9789004166462-i-299-55

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