Marital perceptions of African Americans: A qualitative study on the effectiveness of organizational religion in sustaining healthy marriages
Dunn, Pamela J.
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The purpose of this study was to explore if, how, and why organizational religion helped African American couples sustain healthy marriages. The study explored a strength-based approach enhancing the strengths and characteristics already present within African American individuals, families, and their communities. This qualitative study was conducted using a phenomenological approach relating to participants lived and human experiences. The research objectives were to explore (1) perceptions that African American Christian couples have about organizational religion helping them to achieve and sustain healthy marriages and (2) perceptions that religious leaders in the church have about organizational religion helping African American Christian couples achieve and sustain healthy marriages. A total of 22 individuals participated in this study. Eighteen participants were married couples and four participants were church leader/administrators. All participants were African American males and females residing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of the state of Texas in the United States. Of the nine couples interviewed, all participants reported being married, identifying as Christian, and having a religious affiliation (N=18). All participants also reported being active members of their local church attending church services at least once a week. Data were collected from small group interviews, individual interviews, and church leader/administrative interviews. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed to determine emerging themes. Church artifacts were examined to gauge educational programs offered to its church members. Participation in events sponsored by the church’s Marriage Ministry were surveyed to determine participants involvement in these activities. Themes were determined from small group, individual, and church leader/administrative interviews collectively. Themes from small group interviews included (a) relationship, (b) rigid practices, (c) connection to a higher deity, (d) personal growth/togetherness, (e) church as a support for marriage and (f) balancing church and family dynamics. Themes from individual interviews included (a) model for healthy marriages, (b) teaching, (c) support for married couples, (d) encourages relational bonding, (e) proactive relationship, (f) challenges, and (g) intimacy. Themes from church leader/administrative interviews included (a) marital stability, (b) purposeful approach to the marriage, (c) motivation for ministry, (d) overextension, (e) positive interrelations, and (f) positive reinforcements. Three supporting themes in favor of marital support for couples were identified from church artifacts: (a) teaching, (b) enrichment, and (c) personal growth. Of the comprehensive themes determined, three overarching themes were determined indicative of organizational religion and marital perceptions of African Americans: (1) teaching, (2) modeling, and (3) supporting.