International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Meaning, “Maker”, and Morality: Spiritual Struggles as Predictors of Distress and Growth in Family Caregivers

Serena Wong, M.E.

Bowling Green State University

Kenneth I. Pargament, Ph.D.

Bowling Green State University

Abstract

Caregiving work may elicit different types of spiritual struggles. The goals of the
present cross-sectional study were to examine the frequency and function of six
types of spiritual struggle on caregiver wellbeing. We administered an online
survey to 173 dementia family caregivers. As hypothesized, struggles with meaning,
the “Maker” (the divine), and morality were relevant to our sample and functioned
differentially. The majority of participants reported experiencing at least some
degree of moral (65%) and meaning struggles (62%). Divine and ultimate meaning
struggles predicted depressive symptoms after controlling for caregiver religiosity,
age, and care receiver’s problem behaviors. Divine and moral struggles uniquely
predicted higher levels of caregiver burden. Moral struggles predicted lower levels
of personal growth. Furthermore, religious doubt predicted lower levels of
depressive symptoms when other types of struggles were controlled. Given their
potential for both distress and growth, spiritual struggles are important to address
thoroughly in family caregivers who seek psychotherapy. We highlight some forms
of spiritually-integrated psychotherapy that target specific spiritual struggles
relevant to caregivers.

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