According to the theory of Fundamental Assumptions, childhood sexual abuse survivors have more depressive symptoms as a consequence of disrupted assumptions relating to optimism and mastery (Janoff-Bulman, 1992). This study tested whether positive religious coping preserves the fundamental assumptions to decrease depressive symptoms. In contrast, negative religious coping was posited to challenge assumptions. These hypotheses were tested in 2949 women from the Biopsychosocial Religion and Health study of which 246 reported childhood sexual abuse (CSA) with no childhood physical abuse and no adult sexual assault. Across all participants, positive religious coping (benevolent God reappraisal, collaborative religious coping, and spiritual connection) positively predicted optimism, and collaborative religious coping positively predicted mastery. Negative religious coping (punishing God reappraisal, passive deferral, and anger at God) was inversely associated with both optimism and mastery. Multivariate analyses of variance revealed that CSA participants reported marginally lower levels of mastery, higher punishing God reappraisal and depressive symptoms compared to nonCSA participants. Blacks reported higher benevolent God reappraisal, spiritual connection and punishing God reappraisal. Among Whites, collaborative religious coping decreased risk for depression, while anger at God increased risk for depression after CSA. Among Blacks, punishing God reappraisal increased risk for depression after CSA. Janoff-Bulman's theory of child sexual abuse disrupting fundamental assumptions was partially supported; religious coping demonstrated a pathway to repair assumptions and improve depression outcomes.

LLU Discipline

Clinical Psychology




School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Morton, Kelly R.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded

January 2011

Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Child Abuse, Sexual -- Psychology; Depression; African Americans; Caucasians

Subject - Local

Childhood Sexual Abuse; Religious coping; Benevolent God Reappraisal; Punishing God Reappraisal; Collaborative Religious Coping



Page Count

91 P.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives