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This prospective study examined the pathways by which religious involvement affected the postdisaster psychological functioning of women who survived Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The participants were 386 low-income, predominantly Black, single mothers. The women were enrolled in the study before the hurricane, providing a rare opportunity to document changes in mental health from before to after the storm, and to assess the protective role of religious involvement over time. Results of structural equation modeling indicated that, controlling for level of exposure to the hurricanes, pre-disaster physical health, age, and number of children, predisaster religiousness predicted higher levels of post-disaster (1) social resources and (2) optimism and sense of purpose. The latter, but not the former, was associated with better post-disaster psychological outcome. Mediation analysis confirmed the mediating role of optimism and sense of purpose.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Chan, C. S., Rhodes, J. E., & Pérez, J. E. (2012). A Prospective Study of Religiousness and Psychological Distress Among Female Survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. American Journal of Community Psychology, 49(0), 168–181, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.