The Brief RCOPE scale is a 14-item measure
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:
comfort and closeness to God
intimacy with others and closeness to God
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).
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.
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,
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.
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.)
Learn more about creating surveys
Cite This Blog Post
Sutton, G.W. (2020, January 12). Religious Coping: The Brief RCOPE
scale. Assessment, Statistics, & Research. https://statistics.suttong.com/ 2020/01/religious-coping-brief-rcope-scale.html
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. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel2010051
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 Spirituality, 13(1),
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. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000457
Wilt, J. A., Exline, J. J., & Pargament, K. I. (2022). Coping with religious and spiritual struggles: Religious and secular techniques. Spirituality in Clinical Practice. https://doi.org/10.1037/scp0000289.supp (Supplemental)
See the reference section in the above references for extensive references to the RCOPE in research.
(many free downloads)
Applied Statistics Concepts for Counselors on AMAZON or GOOGLE
A related book
by Pargament and Exline
Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy
by Kenneth Pargament