A growing literature examines the role of religious communities as sources of social support for members, and a smaller body of work also explores negative aspects of social relations within congregations. However, very little is known about the characteristics of religious groups that promote or impede the development of supportive networks. We use data from a unique source—the National Congregations Study, linked with individual records from the 1998 General Social Survey (GSS)—to explore this issue. Key findings reveal that: (1) individuals who attend very large churches tend to report lower levels of anticipated support and informal negative interaction; (2) the presence of major congregational conflict tends to dampen anticipated support and increase informal negative interaction; and (3) the absence of a well-defined period for informal socializing before or after the worship service is associated with lower levels of anticipated support, but is unrelated to the frequency of negative interaction among church members. Several implications and promising directions for future research are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article
Department of Sociology University of Texas at Austin
School of Public Health University of Michigan
Departments of Sociology and Religion and Divinity School Duke University
Publication date: March 1, 2009