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Religious Coping: The Brief RCOPE scale

The Brief RCOPE scale is a 14-item measure of religious coping developed and studied by Kenneth Pargament (e.g., 1997) and his colleagues. The scale is based on coping theory applied to religion and aims to help researchers understand one relationship between people and their religion when they experience a stressful life experience.

Research supports two dimensions of coping reflected in the RCOPE scale: positive and negative. These two dimensions are the basis for two subscales of the Brief RCOPE labelled accordingly as Positive Religious Coping Subscale (PRC) and Negative Religious Subscale (NRC).

Positive coping means drawing upon spiritual resources in a way that helps people cope with stressful events. Such people may have a secure relationship with God or a higher power, hold a benevolent worldview, and have positive relationships with religious others.

Negative religious coping indicates intrapersonal religious or spiritual struggles. The conflict may be experienced as personal tension, conflicts with God, or religious others.

Five Dimensions of Religious Coping

The coping scales address five dimensions of religious coping, which Pargament et al. (2011, p. 56) phrase in goal language using the phrase “Religious methods of coping to…” followed by a specific dimension as follows:

            1. find meaning

            2. gain control

            3. gain comfort and closeness to God

            4. gain intimacy with others and closeness to God

            5. achieve a life transformation

The Brief version of the RCOPE has 14-items and is the most commonly used measure of religious coping.

Researchers have used the Brief RCOPE with people from different ethnic groups and religious groups. Most studies in a 2011 review were based on US samples (Pargament, Feuille, & Brudzy).

Psychometric findings

Reliability: The median alpha values for the scores from the two subscales based on thousands of participants (Pargament et al., 2011) were: PRC = .92 and NRC = .81.

The relationship between the two scales is orthogonal based on most factor analyses but there are some low association values in some studies.

Validity: Several studies support the conclusion that the RCOPE usually produces adequate validity values in relationship to measures of spirituality such as wellbeing and post-traumatic growth.

Sapp (2011) studied religious coping and depression in a Christian university sample. Findings:

   > The Brief RCOPE- Negative Scale had a positive significant correlation with Beck Depression Inventory scores, r = .37.

   > The Brief RCOPE had a significant negative correlation with the Spiritual Well-Being Scale r = -.35.


Findings from Stanford et al. (2021). Stanford et al. (2021) studied the Brief RCOPE and other variables in a mostly Christian (71%) sample of 1,048 participants.

God Image. They found a judgmental God image was significantly related to negative religious coping (NRC, .31) and an engaged God image was significantly related to positive religious coping (PRC, .70). God images were assessed using the 15-item God Questionnaire (Froese & Bader, 2010).

Religious Involvement. Stanford et al. (2021) reported the relationship between the Brief RCOPE scales and three measures of religiosity from the DUREL(Duke University Religion Index): organized (ORA) and nonorganized religious activities (NORA), and intrinsic religiosity (IR). Following are the correlations. Those that are statistically significant (p < .01) are in bold. As can be seen, there is a strong relationship between positive religious coping and religious involvement.

Positive coping and religious involvement: ORA = .58, NORA = .62, IR .79

Negative coping and religious involvement: ORA = .09, NORA = .03, IR .14

Emotion and Mood variables.

Correlations indicated positive coping was moderately associated with positive affect (.29) and negative coping with negative affect (.42) (Stanford et al., 2021) using the Positive and Negative Affect scales (PANAS; Watson et al., (1988). The same team also examined the Brief RCOPE with mental health symptoms using the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale 21 (DASS-21; Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995). Negative coping was also linked to stress (39), anxiety (.40), and depression (.41). There was a weak, albeit statistically significant relationship between positive religious coping and anxiety (.16) but not for either stress or depression.


Verhoeff-Korpershoek and her colleagues (2022) studied religious coping in a sample of Christian outpatients who experienced anxiety or depression. They used an 11-item Dutch language version of the Brief RCOPE, which had alpha values of positive = .74 and negative = .71. The results indicated a statistically significant correlation between negative religious coping and lower wellbeing.

To see the relationship between the Brief RCOPE and the RSS (Religious and Spiritual Struggles) measures, see Wilt et al. (2022).

RCOPE Scale Items

The items for the RCOPE and the Brief RCOPE can be found in a downloadable pdf available 12 January 2020 ( I cannot guarantee the link will always be operative.)

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Related Posts

Spiritual Struggles Scale (Exline et al.)

Cite This Blog Post

Sutton, G.W. (2020, January 12). Religious Coping: The Brief RCOPE scale. Assessment, Statistics, & Research. 2020/01/religious-coping-brief-rcope-scale.html

Resource Link to more tests and questionnairesA – Z Test Index

Religious Coping References

Pargament, K. I. (1997). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research, practice. New York: Guilford Press. Available used and new on AMAZON

Pargament, K., Feuille, M., & Burdzy, D. (2011). The brief RCOPE: Current psychometric status of a short measure of religious coping. Religions, 2 (1), 51-76.

Sapp, J. F. (2011). Exploring the relationships between spiritual well-being, religious distress, and depression among freshmen in a Christian university [ProQuest Information & Learning]. In Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering (Vol. 72, Issue 4–B, p. 2446).

Stanford, M. S., Oxhandler, H. K., & Ellor, J. W. (2021). Assessing the usefulness of the God Questionnaire. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality13(1), 46–52.

Verhoeff-Korpershoek, A., Le Comte-van der Burg, M., Vrijmoeth, C., & Schaap-Jonker, H. (2022). A quasi-experimental study of an adjunctive, online psychoeducational module on religious coping for Christian outpatients with depression or anxiety. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

Wilt, J. A., Exline, J. J., & Pargament, K. I. (2022). Coping with religious and spiritual struggles: Religious and secular techniques. Spirituality in Clinical Practice. (Supplemental)

See the reference section in the above references for extensive references to the RCOPE in research.


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