|By Ph.D. Fellow, Heidi F. Pedersen 1, Christina G. Pedersen 1, Anne C. Sinclair 1, Robert Zachariae 2
1 Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
2 Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
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Instruments for measuring religious coping such as Brief RCOPE have been developed and validated in a Judeo-Christian cultural setting, where God is seen as a personal entity. It is still unknown to what extent people in secular societies like the Scandinavian use religious coping. According to a Swedish study, cancer patients prefer more spiritual ways of coping with illness than religious ways. This could be caused by individuals perceiving God as an impersonal spiritual force rather than as a personal God. Hence, validated, culture-sensitive instruments are needed.
To provide preliminary content-validation of a Danish version of Brief RCOPE with a new spiritual coping dimension added to the original instrument.
Brief RCOPE-14 was translated and moderated to fit Danish culture. A spiritual dimension was added, to accommodate respondents who have difficulties identifying with the concept of “God”. Definitions of the concepts of “God” and “a spiritual force” were explored using discourse analysis of responses from three focus group discussions with 1) a group of secular Christians, 2) a group of spiritual believers, and 3) a group of religious believers.
Participants describing God in personal terms like “father”, “loving”, and “caring” were able to identify with RCOPE. This was the case for the religious believers and one participant in the group of secular Christians. In contrast, participants preferring the concept “a spiritual force” described God in impersonal terms like “energy”, “wholeness” and “cycle”. These participants, mainly spiritual believers and two secular Christians, identified with some of the items in the spiritual dimension of RCOPE, but not items containing thoughts related to “punishment”, “evil forces” and “seeking spiritual cleansing”. Instead, this group called for items covering themes of benefit finding.
Adding a spiritual dimension seems essential, if the instrument is to be applied in Danish research on faith and health. The instrument is in need of further development, and more items addressing spiritual ways of coping should be considered prior to the application of quantitative validation procedures.