Spirituality as compensation for low-quality social environments in childhood among young Kenyan men

Michael L. Goodman, Lauren Raimer-Goodman, Stanley Gitari, Sarah Seidel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores the role of spirituality as a coping mechanism for poor social conditions in childhood, asking whether spirituality moderates poor childhood social conditions and suicide ideation, self-rated health and collective self-esteem among young Kenyan men. Measured outcomes were worse among men who recalled fewer memories of relational warmth and safety in childhood, and better among men who reported higher spirituality. Consistent with the “religion as attachment” framework, spirituality significantly moderated associations between suicide ideation, self-rated health and childhood relational warmth and safety. Contrary to expectations, the association between low childhood warmth and safety and collective self-esteem was exacerbated, rather than compensated for, by higher spirituality. We consider whether “a safe harbor” may exist for people higher in spirituality to accept and critique social arrangements, and whether such a situation might illuminate another way spirituality compensates for poor social environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-385
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • Kenya
  • Mental Health
  • Religion as Attachment
  • Spirituality
  • Young Men

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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