Who spares the rod? Religious orientation, social conformity, and child abuse potential

Academic Article


  • Objective: Relatively little research has investigated the connection between religiosity and physical child abuse risk. Certain aspects, such as specific religious orientation or beliefs, and cognitive schema, such as socially conformist beliefs, may account for the connection that some have claimed increase religious parents' abuse potential. The current study examined whether greater Extrinsic religiosity, but not Intrinsic religiosity, was associated with elevated physical abuse potential. Those who hold a literal interpretation of the Bible and attend church more frequently were also expected to evidence increased abuse risk. Additionally, the role of social conformity in mediating or moderating the association between religiosity and abuse potential was investigated. Methods: Two hundred and seven regularly attending Christians of various denominations completed self-report measures of religiosity, social conformity, and child abuse potential. Results: Findings indicate that Extrinsic religiosity was associated with increased physical abuse potential, with greater social conformity further moderating this association. Intrinsic religious orientation was not associated with abuse risk. Further, those who consider the Bible to be literally true were more socially conformist and evidenced greater abuse risk. Conclusions: For those working with religious parents, the particular nature of religiosity needs to be considered when interpreting a connection between religiosity and abuse risk, as well as the potential attitudes the parent holds regarding the need for conformity. Given the complexity of religiosity, future research should explore other potential mediating and moderating factors that could further clarify its connection to physical abuse risk. Practice implications: Clarifying how religiosity relates to child abuse risk has implications for professionals working with the vast numbers of parents for whom religion is a visible force in their daily lives. Findings from the present study suggest that professionals should consider the underlying motivation for an individual's religion as well as the importance the individual places on conformity. Religiosity per se may not be as critical to predicting physical abuse risk as selected approaches to religion or particular attitudes the religious individual assumes in their daily life. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Rodriguez CM; Henderson RC
  • Start Page

  • 84
  • End Page

  • 94
  • Volume

  • 34
  • Issue

  • 2