Does Religion Help Cope With Distress? A Multilevel Test of General Strain Theory

Sung Joon Jang, Louisiana State University
Byron R. Johnson, University of Pennsylvania

ABSTRACT
Although Agnew's (1992) general strain theory (GST) has received empirical support, previous research has rarely tested GST in a community context. This is somewhat surprising given that Agnew (1999) already proposed a macro-level GST to emphasize the role of community in generating strain. To fill this gap in knowledge, we construct a multilevel model to examine relationships among strain, distress, religiosity, and deviant coping in two theoretically distinct community contexts, community disorganization and "moral community." Specifically, we hypothesize that (1) the effects of county-level community variables on individual deviant coping behavior are partly mediated by individual-level variables of strain and distress, and (2) the distress-buffering effects of religiosity on deviant coping are conditioned by the two community contexts. Data to test hypotheses are drawn from a nationally representative survey of the adult African American population as well as the U.S. Census, the Uniform Crime Reports, and the Churches and Church Membership in the United States. We apply hierarchial linearl models (HLM) to estimate our model.

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Updated 05/20/2006