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Yen Le, Jill L. Snodgrass, Ph.D.

The Lived Experience of Religiosity and Stress Among Middle-Aged Vietnamese American Catholic Immigrants

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Middle adulthood is a developmental period that often starts around age 40-45 and extends to 60-65 years of age (Santrock, 2015). Middle adulthood extends for decades and often entails both positive and negative experiences and influences (Finke, Huston, & Sharpe, 2005). Lachman (2004) indicated that midlife experiences are complex, with both gains and losses and multiple patterns of change across the social, psychological, physical, and spiritual domains. Although midlife most often entails both gains and losses, the term “midlife” is often associated with the term “crisis” and is viewed by many as a period replete with stressors. Stressors may involve job loss, financial pressures, divorce, remarriage, empty nest syndrome, menopausal transitions, and the demands of multiple roles (Lachman, 2004).

There is little available research indicating how Vietnamese American Catholic immigrants engage protective factors in order to moderate midlife decline. This gap of knowledge is problematic for mental health clinicians and other helping professionals who work to provide the best possible care for immigrants facing midlife stress. This article reports the findings from a qualitative study that utilized interpretative phenomenological analysis to uncover the lived experiences of religiosity and stress among middle-aged Vietnamese American Catholics immigrants.

Research Questions:

The goal of this study was to investigate the following research questions:

1. What are the participants’ lived experiences of midlife?
2. What are the participants’ lived experiences of midlife stressors, and what are those stressors?
3. How do participants cope with midlife stressors?
4. What is the role of spirituality in midlife?
5. What wisdom did participants acquire in adapting to midlife, if any?

Method: The study received approval from Loyola University Maryland’s Institutional Review Board. Participants were required to meet the following criteria: be a Vietnamese American Catholic immigrant; be between the ages of 40-60; be clergy, a religious brother or sister, or a lay person; be willing to participate in a 45-60 minute in-person interview; and be willing to be contacted by phone or email for a follow-up after the interview. Participants consisted of six Vietnamese American Catholic immigrants between the ages of 43-50. The ways of achieving credibility and trustworthiness in this qualitative research is by conducting member checks and engaging in debriefing and bracketing.

Results: Analysis of the six interviews resulted in the generation of the five superordinate themes: defining midlife; midlife stressors; coping with midlife stressors; spiritual strategies for coping with midlife stressors; and wisdom related to midlife.

Conclusion: The study findings offer important implications for helping Vietnamese Americans Catholic immigrants to find optimal ways (e.g., religious beliefs and religious practices) to cope with midlife stressors and to facilitate resilience.

Contact person: Yen K. Le,


Finke, M. S., Huston, S. J., & Sharpe, D. L. (2005). Balance sheets of early Boomers: Are they different from pre-Boomers? Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 27, 542–561. doi: 10.1007/s10834-006-9026-7

Lachman, M. E. (2004). Development in midlife. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 305-331. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.141521

Santrock, J. W. (2015). Life-span development (15th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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