Theses/Dissertations - Sociology

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    Parental religiosity and adolescent grades and college aspirations : the role of parenting characteristics, adolescent social settings, and adolescent personality.
    (May 2023) Andre, Nick, 1987-; Uecker, Jeremy.
    Previous research indicates that parental religiosity influences the morals, skills, and social ties adolescents establish. Adolescents then apply cultural capital, skills, and social capital in educational settings. However, it is unclear if parenting characteristics, adolescent social settings, and adolescent personality traits mediate the effect of parental religious service attendance on adolescent academic outcomes such as grades received and expectations for a bachelor’s degree or higher. Using data from the 2017-18 National Survey of Moral Formation, regression analysis reveals that parental religious service attendance influences the grades adolescents receive and their aspirations to earn a college degree, even in the presence of other relevant factors. Mediation analysis reveals that the effect of parental religious service is partially mediated by parenting characteristics for both outcomes. These findings confirm the complicated nature of religion’s influence on adolescent academic outcomes, which merits continued exploration.
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    A bigger piece of the federal pie : politics and crime in the United States.
    (May 2023) McGourty, Meagan L., 1999-; Mencken, Frederick Carson, 1964-
    In the United States, the fear of crime has risen to an unprecedented level - higher than that of 1994; a time when violent crime reached a peak. However, with recent data, scholars can begin to understand where this fear disseminates from and how it can be curbed. Using the General Social Survey (GSS), I find significant values regarding various demographics and their fear of crime, particularly related to race and political affiliation. My research methods consist of secondary survey analysis, utilizing regression analysis and interaction effects within regression. My findings outline an established concept in other literature; that minorities and Republicans have a greater fear of crime than Whites and Democrats. However, I also find that Black Republicans are among those who feel the United States should spend less, indicating a lesser fear of crime. These findings contribute to the literature involving fear of crime, as well as introduce new speculations regarding who is necessarily more afraid.
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    A different kind of evangelical : an examination of the political diversity that exists within evangelical Protestantism.
    (May 2023) DeDeyne, Jesse Lee, 1981-; Dougherty, Kevin D.
    While anecdotally people understand that not all evangelicals are white, Republican, conservatives who only vote for Republicans little research has been done to support these anecdotes. In this dissertation, I analyze nationally representative samples of adults in the United States in order to: 1) describe the cross-pressures that people face when their political identity is not in line with the majority of political identities in their religious tradition; 2) examine how different groups of evangelicals, based on party identification and political ideology, report the most important problem facing the United States today; and 3) uncover diversity that exists within evangelicalism using their policy preferences (operational ideology) and not just their self-reported political ideology (symbolic ideology). The results from these analyses will allow researchers to better understand that diversity of thought exists within evangelicalism, and it will help add complexity and diversity to the study of evangelicals.
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    Socioeconomic status as a fundamental cause of infant mortality in Bangladesh : is there an education gradient?
    (May 2023) Malo, James Sujit, 1992-; Upenieks, Laura.
    Fundamental Cause Theory asserts that persistent socioeconomic differences in mortality exist because people with higher socioeconomic status possess a wide array of flexible resources, including money, prestige, power, and beneficial social connections that positively affect health outcomes. Medical sociologists have tested the theory in the United States, Canada, and some European countries. However, whether this theory can explain the socioeconomic status and mortality connection in a different sociocultural context is still unexplored. This paper tests fundamental cause theory (FCT) by examining the association between mother’s education and infant mortality in Bangladesh using the MICS-2019 data. Results from logistic regression analyses suggest that education remains a significant predictor of infant mortality. Mothers with higher education reported lower odds of infant mortality compared to mothers with lower education. However, the study did not find support for the claim that the incremental risk of infant mortality reduces with the attainment of each successive education category.
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    Private religiosity and mental health : the buffering role of prayer and scriptures on social isolation among Americans.
    (May 2023) Yang, Heewon, 1991-; Park, Jerry Z.
    The existing body of literature identifies religion, especially public religiosity, as a factor that ameliorates the detrimental effects of stressors in the time of challenge, as well as promoting health. However, a facet unique to the COVID-19 pandemic that has yet to be grasped in existing studies is that participation in public religiosity took on a drastically different form under social distancing and lockdown. Thus, I argue that private religiosity (measured by private scripture reading and private prayer) provides a buffering effect on loneliness, a key predictor of mental health, during the pandemic. Using data from the Baylor Religion Survey Wave 6 my findings underscore that scripture reading buffers loneliness (b=-.005, P<.05), while prayer has null effect on loneliness associated with social distancing.
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    The dry spell : an interaction ritual approach to sexual inactivity and mental health among American young adults.
    (May 2023) Chakraborty, Rudradev N., 1991-; Uecker, Jeremy.
    Contemporary society reinforces gendered sexual scripts as a mode of sexual behavior; wherein men seek affirmation as active agents of sexual encounters and women take the passive role as gatekeepers of access to sex. Much research exists on the effects of sexual scripts on women, with limited examination of the impact on men and mental health, particularly outside the active agent role. Using Wave 4 of the National Survey of Youth and Religion, I find that men who report no sex in the past six months or more were more likely to report depressive symptoms and were significantly less satisfied with their lives than their counterparts, with no protective effect of prior sex partners. The impact of sexual encounters on life satisfaction was fully mediated by levels of commitment. These findings suggest that the relationship between sexuality and well-being may be best analyzed as an affirmation of commitment.
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    Diverging paths : how race shapes religiosity in emerging adulthood.
    (December 2022) Evans, Hannah Rose, 1994-; Uecker, Jeremy.
    Existing research has long established fundamental racial differences in religious affiliation, attendance, and salience. However, these racial differences have gone understudied among young adults, and little is known about how religiosity in the transition to adulthood is shaped by race. This dissertation explores how race, particularly Whiteness, shapes adolescent and young adult religiosity. The first chapter shows that trends in Black and White young adult religiosity has diverged over the last 50 years, with Black young adults remaining stable in attendance while White young adults decrease steadily. The second chapter shows that cultural individualism mediates the effect of race on adolescent and young adult religious salience. The third chapter shows that increased religious salience in the transition to adulthood has a positive effect on mother-child closeness, particularly among Black young adults. I argue that a robust theoretical framework for race in the transition to adulthood is essential for understanding religiosity among adolescents and young adults.
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    Health in times of COVID : social behaviors and dimensions of well-being in the midst of a global pandemic.
    (August 2022) Aravena Mendez, Alonso O., 1985-; Park, Jerry Z.
    In this dissertation, I set out to study how health behaviors and social dimensions of well-being have related to each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though during this crisis many well-being studies have emphasized individual aspects of well-being, I suggest that sociological factors, such as doctor-patient relationships, attitudes towards health equity, and social capital and engagement issues, can significantly affect health-related access, behaviors, and outcomes. To accomplish this goal, I present in this doctoral dissertation three empirical papers that relate these aspects. All three papers have a quantitative design using data from a national random survey of household addresses conducted during the first quarter of 2021 by Gallup for the sixth wave of Baylor University’s Values and Beliefs of the American Public survey. In the first one, I analyze the significant effect of doctor-patient relationships on the odds of delaying routine care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the second paper, I study the effects of attitudes toward health equity on the adoption of three pandemic-related protective behaviors, which are having worn a mask outside of one’s home, having sheltered in place, and 1 having socially distanced in public spaces. In the third paper, I analyze the effects of engaging in local communities, national politics, and social media on the levels of self-reported happiness and on the differences in regularity of feeling happy during the pandemic. All three papers include relevant controls, such as sociodemographic factors, individual health status, exposure to the novel coronavirus, and life course variables, among others. Despite the limitations of the research, which are detailed in each chapter, I offer support for the need to continue furthering the study of social health behaviors and well-being during adverse and challenging times.
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    Faith formation in Christian higher education : a sociological study.
    (August 2022) Allen, Daniel M., 1987-; Dougherty, Kevin D.
    Faith formation is a desired outcome of Christian higher education in America. However, there is a lack of empirical investigation on students’ own perceptions of spiritual formation. Using quantitative data from one large Protestant university in the South, this dissertation addresses this gap by exploring what faith formation looks like for students. The first area of study concerns one of the oldest traditions in Christian higher education: university-sponsored chapel services. I ask who is most likely to indicate a positive or negative reaction to chapel in relation to their religious beliefs. I find that more religious students are not more likely to say chapel strengthened their beliefs, but that they are less likely to say chapel weakened their beliefs. Next, I focus on digital religion, an increasingly relevant topic for Christian institutions because of its broad implications for faith-integrated curricular and co-curricular activities. The proliferation of digital engagement with religion among young people today provides the backdrop for asking which types of undergraduate students are likely to access religious or spiritual content online. Findings show that those with more traditional Christian beliefs, the more religiously engaged, and those who identify with the sponsoring denomination of the university are all more likely than their counterparts to engage with digital religious or spiritual content. The third study considers graduate programs, a growing yet less common feature of Christian institutions. I measure the impact of various program types and characteristics on the overall spiritual experience of graduate students. I find a negative association between participation in research doctorate programs (compared to masters and professional programs) and a high-quality spiritual experience. I also find that student collaboration, job advice, and the opportunity to take outside coursework are all positively correlated with a high-quality spiritual experience. This dissertation concludes with a brief discussion on the implications of these findings for Christian institutions and a call for continued systematic research on faith formation in Christian higher education.
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    Racial biases and COVID-19 anxiety in America : how do healthcare workers compare to the public?
    (August 2022) Bilaye-Benibo, Tamunosaki, 1993-; Andersson, Matthew.
    Considering how often marginalized groups are ostracized during infectious disease outbreaks, it is important to revisit the relationship between outgroup bias and anxiety about said outbreaks. American healthcare workers are a group of particular interest given their frontline involvement in clinical outcomes. Using multiple regression and 2020 IAT data, I evaluate relationships between racial bias and COVID-19 anxiety. I find that bias against Black people — implicit or explicit — is negatively associated with COVID anxiety. Additionally, while American healthcare workers’ implicit racial bias has a weaker association with COVID anxiety compared to the public, the association between explicit bias and anxiety is stronger among healthcare workers. Meanwhile, Black respondents show no relationship between implicit bias and COVID anxiety. Overall, my findings show that racial bias is negatively related to COVID anxiety in and out of healthcare, supporting my key contention that racism perpetuates racial inequality through increased apathy toward pandemic-related risks.
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    Mastery and self-rated health during the COVID-19 pandemic : exploring contingencies by gender and race.
    (August 2022) McGowan, Amanda C., 1988-; Upenieks, Laura.
    Research suggests that persons with higher levels of mastery may have better self-rated health than those with lower levels of mastery. This research aims to address the following two questions: Does mastery hold a favorable association with self-rated health roughly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic? Does any such relationship vary by gender or race? Data for this study comes from the Baylor Religion Survey (BRS), Wave 6, a study of adults in the United States collected from January to March of 2021. Results suggest that higher levels of mastery are linked with higher self-rated health scores, and this association was stronger among male and White respondents. The implications of these findings are discussed, and several directions for future research are set forth.
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    Ego-tribalism in religion, politics, and media : a changing landscape calls for a new theory of trust.
    (August 2022) Burtt, Jason John, 1979-; Dougherty, Kevin D.
    Scholarship on individual manifestations of social trust typically emphasize three theoretical frameworks: rational choice, psychological/epistemological capacity, or network distribution. In this dissertation, I argue that these approaches have limited explanatory power, and instead put forth a new theory of trust that harmonizes and improves on them. I submit ego-tribalism as a new model for understanding social trust, where egocentrism and tribal identities are often in tension. Several hypotheses are drawn from this framing and are tested in three separate studies. Using data from the 2017 Baylor Religion Survey, I analyze the impact of Internet usage, moral authority, and religiosity on generalized social trust. I find that moral individualism is negatively associated with social trust. Increasing religiosity is not significant, challenging previous research that suggested religiosity predicts an increase in generalized trust. Also, moderate religiosity amplifies the effects of a judgmental God-image on social trust relative to high religiosity. The theory of ego-tribal trust distribution illustrates how individual religiosity and moral authority relate to generalized trust as they depend on levels of self-interest vis-à-vis tribal bonding over certain beliefs and behaviors. A second study uses data from the 2021 Baylor Religion Survey to explore the effects of political identity, generalized trust, social media usage, and increased online political activism during COVID-19 on the belief a political party threatens the unity of the United States. An increase in social trust predicts a lower probability of perceived outgroup threat. Increased social media usage is not predictive but an increase in online activism predicts lower trust. Online activism amplifies the effect of political liberalism but not conservatism. This I suggest, is an effect of liberal ideological tribalism in concert with unilateral disclosure of personal sentiment. Data for the final study also come from the 2021 Baylor Religion Survey. I analyze the extent to which beliefs about mainstream media and the consumption of politically biased media predict distrust of the COVID-19 vaccine. Consumption of conservative media is associated with distrust in the vaccine. Believing media exaggerate the dangers of COVID-19 significantly attenuates the negative effect of education on distrust of the vaccine. Increasing age significantly attenuates the effect of conservative media. Older conservatives are exposed to the tribal narrative that predicts distrust in the COVID-19 vaccine, but self-interest to protect personal health overrides that influence. I conclude the dissertation with a summary of findings, a review of ego-tribalism, and avenues for future research.
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    Tracking emergent religious groups in the US and adherence over time.
    (2022-03-25) Foertsch, Steven, 1995-; Dougherty, Kevin D.
    Emergent religious groups are an innovative but chronically understudied and misunderstood realm of contemporary religion. This may be due to notorious difficulties encountered when estimating the size of populations involved with emergent religious groups at any given time. To address this problem, two hypotheses were proposed based on the expectations of religious economies theory: 1. the population involved with any ERG remained within an .2-2.2% range of the total American population, and 2. this percentage does not change over time. Findings from three national surveys suggest support for .2-2.2% of the U.S. population involved with ERGs regardless of year, and tentative support for the religious economies explanation. ERGs are a viable case for quantitative sociologists of religion, which has hitherto been dominated by qualitative case study, although creativity and further research is needed to verify the findings.
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    Political identity switching and change in religiosity among students at a conservative Christian university.
    (2022-05-03) Brown, Brandon M., 1996-; Uecker, Jeremy.
    Research on university students’ religiosity concentrates on the effect of higher education on religious behavior and belief. Some of this effect may be due to higher education’s influence on political identity which – in a context of increased political polarization and expressive political identity – may impact religious commitment. Using longitudinal panel data from the Baylor Faith and Character Study, this study examines change in political identity and religiosity among students at a conservative Protestant university. Findings reveal changes in public and private religious behaviors, certainty in belief and their alignment with core tenets of the Christian faith, and spirituality and one’s relationship to the divine corresponding with shifting politics. While students who become more politically conservative increase their religiosity, the inverse is true for those whose politics liberalize.
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    Civic engagement : comparing the effect of political identity and socioeconomic status.
    (2022-05-06) Johnson, Rachel E. M., 1993-; Mencken, Frederick Carson, 1964-
    It was noted this past midterm cycle that the Democratic Party was more politically active than their counterparts in the Republican Party. Expanding to civic engagement, will this trend continue? Furthermore, will socioeconomic status be a significant factor when analyzing partisan community involvement? Utilizing ordinary least squares regression models and the American National Election Studies (ANES) 2020 study, it was found overall that socioeconomic status does influence the three identified types of civic engagement and reduces the effect political party affiliation has on civic engagement. Socioeconomic status is found to be a significant factor in predicting civic engagement behaviors especially for members of the Democratic Party.
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    Why feeling like we matter matters : mattering as a social resource for health, resilience, and emotional well-being.
    (2022-03-16) Bonhag, Rebecca, 1994-; Froese, Paul.
    The feeling that we matter to others is a core ingredient to people’s well-being and mental health. Despite its roots in early social theory and its crucial implications for well-being, the concept of “mattering” has received fairly little attention in contemporary sociological research. After a review of the theoretical roots of mattering and the state of the current literature on the topic, this text dives into an exploration of how mattering connects to three different areas relevant for sociologists. Using data from the 2021 Baylor Religion Survey, a national sample of US adults, I first examine how mattering is connected to physical health with an emphasis on its interaction with gender. Next, I explore how a sense of mattering may have impacted the emotional responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. Third, I analyze how different facets of prayer impact a person’s sense of mattering. I end with a reflection on the results of these three studies and directions for future research.
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    Feminism, feminists, and faith : intersectional identities.
    (2022-04-11) Hernandez, Amanda Dawn, 1989-; Froese, Paul.
    This project explores the ways that feminism and Christianity have long been viewed as contradictory. The first section explores landmark feminist texts and argues that there has long been the assumption that Christianity and feminism are contradictory because of the way whiteness has shaped both institutions. The second section utilizes interviews and survey data to examine the ways people think about being a Christian woman and how the expectations of that right womanhood push or pull women towards or away from embracing feminism. And finally, the last section examines feminism explicitly with the same interview data, exploring the ways women think about the way feminism fits into their lives. This study complicates the way that scholars in sociology of religion and women’s and gender studies have wrestled with the question of Christian feminists and how this demographic may fit into the broader coalition of feminists.
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    Rural/urban health disparity of the oldest old in China.
    (2021-10-26) Liu, Yingling, 1986-; Upenieks, Laura.; Froese, Paul.
    China is the fastest aging country in the post-industrial world. The oldest old, aged 80 and above, in China are an extremely selective group, as they are the survivors of brutal historical events which decimated the birth cohorts of many millions. Meanwhile, the oldest old consume the most extensive and costly health-care resources. Thus, studying the oldest old population in China is valuable for longevity research as well as the public health policy. Using the most recent two waves of data from Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey, this dissertation focuses on the rural/urban health divide of the oldest old population, by looking at 1) the rural/urban disparities across multiple health and wellbeing measurements; 2) the potential mediating role of an individual’s socioeconomic status; and 3) the different relationships between community service and health in rural and urban areas. Results from these analyses will allow researchers and policy makers to better understand the complexity of the rural/urban health disparity among the oldest old in China.
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    #AsiansforBlackLives? : Interracial coupling and Black Lives Matter support.
    (2021-08-10) Chang, Joyce C., 1993-; Park, Jerry Z.
    This study examines the relationship between racialized marital selection and support for Black Lives Matter. Nearly a third of Asian American newlyweds are interracially married. Previous research reports that interracial marriages are used as a marker for assimilation and can represent or reshape racial attitudes. With the growing awareness and support for the Black Lives Matter movement, we consider the possible relationship between interracial coupling and support for this social movement. Using the 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post Survey, we find that Asian Americans with racially non-white spouses are significantly different from Asian Americans with white spouses in their support for Black Lives Matter, thus suggesting that interracially married Asian Americans vary in their cultural integration rather than just assimilating to the views of the dominant group. With Asian Americans as the fastest growing minority group, this study offers quantitative insights on the need for improving theorization of intergroup relations effects on racial attitudes.
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    Emerging adult private prayer : a habit developed across time.
    (2021-08-09) Jones, Rory C., 1990-; Froese, Paul.
    Private prayer frequency is a measure that helps researchers assess a spiritual habit that is developed across time. Using longitudinal data collected from the National Study of Youth and Religion, I analyze the extent to which secularization, existential security, and religious socialization play a role in the private prayer frequency of emerging adults. My analysis shows that emerging adults’ private prayer behaviors are shaped by their social location and their religious socialization. Being a woman, having parents whose religion is important to them, having parents who pray for you, and believing in an engaged prayer target are all significantly associated with increased private prayer as an emerging adult. Higher parental income is associated with lower levels of private prayer as an emerging adult. I suggest further research that looks at other elements of the prayer experience and the religious institutional forces that lead women to pray more than men.