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I specialize in theory and empirical research on relational spirituality, or specific religious/spiritual (R/S) cognitions and behaviors about close interpersonal relationships that can help or harm individual and relational health. I have written extensive integrative reviews on the science of religious/spiritual processes and coupling, uncoupling, and parenting across diverse families. I created the Relational Spirituality Framework to organize and synthesize such studies. I also wrote a book on children’s spiritual and religious development. I have authored, co-authored, or mentored empirical studies on the roles that specific R/S processes play for marriage, the transition to parenthood, parenting, couples' sexual relationships, romantic break-ups and divorce, friendships, AA sponsorship, and individuals' personal well-being. These R/S processes include sanctification, spiritual intimacy, desecration, sacred loss, spiritual one-upmanship, positive R/S coping, and negative R/S coping. Relational spirituality also encompasses how peoples' felt relationships with God and their faith communities inform their close relationships with other people.


Latest research interests focus on the roles that R/S factors play for sexual and gender minorities, religious exiting, non-theistic parenting, coping with relationship dissolutions, and singlehood. In a 2022 Stanford University report, I was ranked among the top 2% of scientists worldwide.


Illustrative Publications

See CV for full list of publications; some publications can be accessed by clicking on links throughout this web page.

Selected Recent Publications

McGraw, J. S., McManimen, S. Chinn, J., Harrison D. Angoff, H. D., Docherty, M., &  Mahoney, A. (2022). Adverse childhood experiences, suicidal/self-harming thoughts, and suicide attempts among LGB and Heterosexual Utahns. Journal of Homosexuality, 69 (7), 1141-1159. DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2021.1909396 


McGraw, J. S., Peer, S. O., McManimen, S. Chinn, J. & Mahoney, A. (2022). Comparison of lifetime suicide attempts and recent suicidal/self-harming thoughts among sexual minority and heterosexual Utahns: Results from a population-based survey. Archives of Suicide Research, 26(2), 961-967 DOI: 10.1080/13811118.2020.1806159 

Mahoney, A., Wong, S., Pomerleau, J. M, & Pargament, K. I. (2021). Sanctification of diverse aspects of life and psychosocial functioning: A meta-analysis of studies from 1999-2019. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advanced online publication.


Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., & DeMaris, A. (2021). Spiritual intimacy, spiritual one-upmanship, and marital conflict across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology, 35(4), 552-558. DOI: 10.1037/fam0000795 Epub 2020 Aug 13.


Selected Major Reviews of Literature

Mahoney, A. (2021). The science of children’s religious and spiritual development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108874342

Mahoney, A. & Boyatzis, C. J. (2019).  Parenting, religion, and spirituality. M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of Parenting (3ed), pp 516-552. NY, NY: Routledge. 


Mahoney, A. (2013). The spirituality of us: Relational spirituality in the context of family relationships. In K. I. Pargament, J. J. Exline, & J. W. Jones (Eds.), APA handbook of psychology, religion, and spirituality (Vol. 1): Context, theory, and research (pp. 365–389). American Psychological Association.


Mahoney, A. (2010). Religion in families 1999-2009: A relational spirituality framework. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72,(4) 805 – 827. DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00732.x

Hernandez, K. M., Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I. (2013). The sacred dance between sexuality and religion: Scientific insights from the 21st century. In D. L. Tolman & L. Diamond (Eds.) The American Psychological Association's handbook of sexuality and psychology (pp. 425-447). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., Swank, A., & Tarakeshwar, N. (2001). Religion in the home in the 1980s and 90s: A meta-analytic review and conceptual analysis of religion, marriage, and parenting. Journal of Family Psychology, 15, 559-596. 

Relational Spirituality Framework

Relational Spirituality Framework 

The Relational Spirituality Framework (graphic representation) synthesizes empirical findings of global religious/spiritual markers and delineates specific religious/spiritual processes that can facilitate or undermine close relationship functioning. Analogous to Pargament and Mahoney’s (2017) conception of spirituality as the discovery, conservation, and transformation of people perceive as sacred, the Relational Spirituality Framework (Mahoney, 2010; 2013) heuristically sorts the R/S and couple/family research literature into three recursive, overlapping stages: (a) formation (i.e., creating and structuring a relationship), (b) maintenance (i.e., protecting an established relationship), and (c) transformation (i.e., reforming or exiting a dysfunctional relationship). In addition, the framework differentiates specific religious/spiritual strengths or struggles that could emerge in individuals’ relationships with (a) perceived supernatural figures (e.g., deity, immortal ancestor), (b) other individuals (e.g., romantic partner, spouse, child), and (c) the religious community (e.g., religious leaders and coreligionists). Each type of struggle has the potential to shape close dyadic relationships (e.g., adult unions, parent–child relationships). 

R-SPiRiT Lab

Relational Spirituality, Secularity & Psychology Research Team:
R-SPiRiT Lab

Our research team focuses on the relational spirituality and links to relational and individual well-being, for better and worse. 

See this APA Div 36 newsletter article on Dr. Mahoney's encouragement and advice as a mentor about pursuing relational spirituality.

If you are interested in applying to be mentored by Dr. Mahoney and be involved in the R-SPiRiT Lab, you can find information about applying to BGSU’s APA approved clinical psychology PhD program at:

Please note, the deadline for applications each year is December 1st for the following academic year. 

Graduate Students

Current Graduate Students

Academic Yr 2023-24
James McGraw, MA
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Master's Thesis: Religious/spiritual struggles, one-upmanship, internalized homophobia and suicide risk among lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer/questioning and same-sex attracted Latter-day Saints

Dissertation: A test of the three-step theory of suicide (3st) among a sample of sexual minority Latter-day Saints

More about James & CV:

James' research and clinical interests revolve around four domains: (a) Suicide & Self Injury - examining distal and proximal predictors of suicidal thoughts and behaviors; (b) Sexual & Gender Minority Mental Health – examining protective and risk factors related to LGBTQ mental illness (e.g., internalized homophobia); (c) Religion & Spirituality – exploring ways in which religion and spirituality relate to psychopathology and psychotherapy; and (d) Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) – implementing EBP into psychotherapy and psychological assessment in order to best guide treatment (e.g., transdiagnostic approaches to psychopathology). 

Lindsey Chou, MA
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BGSU Master's Thesis: In preparation. 


More about Lindsey:

Lindsey Chou is interested in religious and spiritual distress, and the psychological and social outcomes of such distress. Her master's thesis will focus on the impacts of sacred loss, desecration, and/or sanctification on adjustment following a religious exit.

Jesse Ojeda, MA
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BGSU Master's Thesis: In preparation. 


More about Jesse:

Jesse’s research interests broadly concern religion, spirituality, relationships with higher powers and religious communities, and psychosocial adjustment outcomes. His master’s thesis will focus on how emerging adults utilize positive and negative religious coping mechanisms, specifically considering God concepts/divine relationships, to process religious exiting experiences. Previously, he has participated in community-based psychoeducational programs to address mental health disparities in African American communities. Jesse’s clinical interests involve using spiritually informed psychotherapies and interventions techniques to help client’s cope with spiritual and secular issues.

Prior Grad Students

Prior Grad Students

Prior Grad Students

Name, dissertation, sample journal publication

Jay Chinn, PhD 2023 Postdoctoral Fellow, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus OH 2023-2024


























Daniel Flint, PhD 2022 Assistant Professor and Pediatric Psychologist
Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital


Dating Couples' Spiritual Intimacy Predicts Relationship Satisfaction and Commitment Beyond Emotional Intimacy

Allison Hart, PhD 2021 Associate Therapist/Psychologist Wellspace SF


Pathways Between Relational Spiritual Processes, Aa Sponsorship Alliance, and Sponsee Recovery Goals

Master's thesis: Soul Sisters and Brothers: Sanctification and Spiritual Intimacy as Predictors of Friendship Quality between Close Friends in a College Sample


Julie Pomerleau, PhD 2020 Private practice - Toledo


Sacred or Profane? Emerging Adults’ Sanctification and Desecration of their Non-Marital Relational Sexuality and Links to Relational, Psychological, and Spiritual Adjustment 

Pargament, K. I., Oman, D., Pomerleau, J. M., Mahoney, A. (2017). Some contributions of a psychological approach to the study of the sacred. Religion, 47,  718-744. DOI: 10.1080/0048721X.2017.1333205. 

Emily Padgett, PhD, 2016 Bowling Green

Dissertation: Relational Spirituality and Trajectories of Observed Emotional Intimacy During the Transition to Parenthood


Padgett, E., Annette Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., & DeMaris, A (2019). Marital sanctification and spiritual intimacy predicting married couples’ observed intimacy skills across the transition to parenthood. Religions, 10, 177-193. DOI: 10.3390/rel10030177


Layal Abadi, PhD, 2016 Private practice - Ann Arbor

Dissertation: College Students' Spiritual Resources and Struggles in Coping with Intimate Partner Verbal Aggression: A Longitudinal Study


Mahoney, A., Abadi, L., & Pargament, K. I. (2015). Tolerate or transform? Exploring women's spiritual struggles and resources to cope with intimate partner aggression. Invited chapter for J. A. Johnson (Ed.) Religion and men's violence against women (pp. 45-59. New York, NY: Springer Publishers

Anna (Hawley) Harper, PhD 2015 Professor of Psychology, Mount Vernon Nazarene University 

Dissertation: A Longitudinal Analysis of Psychosocial Coping, Religious/Spiritual Appraisals, and Religious/Spiritual Coping in Predicting College Students’ Adjustment to Non-Marital Breakup


Hawley, A. R., Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., & Gordon, A. K. (2015). Sexuality and spirituality as predictors of distress over a romantic breakup: Mediated and moderated pathways. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 2 (2), 145 – 159. DOI: 10.1037/scp0000034 

Lisa (Grimes) Linder, PhD 2012 Associate Professor San Diego State University

Dissertation: The Role of Parental Self-efficacy and Parental Knowledge in Parent-Infant Interactions and Infant Behavior during the Transition to Parenthood


Mahoney, A., LeRoy, M., Kusner, K., Padgett, E., & Grimes, L. (2013). Addressing parental spirituality as part of the problem and solution in family psychotherapy. D. F. Walker & W. Hathaway (Ed.) Spiritually oriented interventions in child and adolescent psychotherapy, (pp. 65-88).  Washington DC: American Psychological  Association. 


Katherine Kusner, PhD 2012  Private practice - Ann Arbor

Dissertation: Longitudinal Effects of Self-reported Marital Strengths on Couples' Observed Conflictual Interactions Across the Transition to Parenthood

Kusner, K., Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., & DeMaris, A. (2014). Sanctification and spiritual intimacy predicting observed marital interactions across the transition to parenthood.  Journal of Family Psychology, 28, 604-614 DOI: 10.1037/a0036989 


Michelle LeRoy, PhD 2011 Staff psychologist - Mayo Clinic Health System, MI

Dissertation: Predictors of Coparenting: Infant Temperament, Infant Gender, and Hostile-Reactive Parenting


LeRoy, M., Mahoney, A., Gullian, R., Boxer, P. & Fang, Q. (2014). Parents who hit and scream: Effects of severe physical aggression and verbal aggression on clinic-referred adolescents. Child Abuse & Neglect, 38, 893-901. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.10.017

Krystal Hernandez-Kane, PhD 2010 Private practice, Columbus

Dissertation: Using Spiritual Resources to Prevent Declines in Sexuality among First-Time Parents


Hernandez-Kane, K. M., & Mahoney, A. (2018). Sex through a sacred lens: Longitudinal effects of sanctification of marital sexuality. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(4), 425-434.

Elizabeth (Krumrei) Mancuso, PhD 2008  Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine University

Dissertation: A longitudinal analysis of the role of religious appraisals and religious coping in adults' adjustment to divorce


Krumrei, E.J., Mahoney, A., & Pargament, K. I. (2011). Spiritual stress and coping model of divorce: A longitudinal study of a community sample. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 973-985. DOI:10.1037/a0025879. 

Heidi (Ihrke) Warner, PhD 2009 Private practice, Des Moines Iowa 

Dissertation: Generational Curse? Spiritual Appraisals, Spiritual Struggles and Risk Factors for the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce

Warner, H. L., Mahoney, A. & Krumrei, E. J. (2009). When parents break sacred vows:  The role of spiritual appraisals, coping and struggles for young adults' adjustment to parental divorce.  Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 1, 233-248.

Rachel Cheyne, PhD 2004 Staff psychologist - Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

Dissertation: The sanctification of parenting and adoption among
special needs adoptive parents


Gina (Yanni) Brelsford, PhD 2003 Professor of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg

Dissertation: Religious and secular dyadic variables and their relation to parent-child relationships and college students' psychological adjustment/

Brelsford, G. M., & Mahoney, A. (2009). Relying on God to resolve conflict: Theistic mediation and triangulation in relationships between college students and mothers,  The Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 28, 291-301

Brelsford, G. M., & Mahoney, A. (2008). Spiritual disclosure between older adolescents and their mothers. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 62-70.

Rebecca (Lakin) Gullian, PhD 2003 Professor of Psychology, Gwynedd Mercy University

Dissertation: The association between the parenting alliance and parenting behaviors in families of 2-to-17 year olds.

Lakin, R. & Mahoney, A. (2006). Empowering youth to change their world: Identifying key components of a community service program to promote positive development. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 513-531.

Jamie Wieber, PhD 2002 Staff psychologist - Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services 

Dissertation: Assessing positive and negative parent-child interactions: Extending findings from parent global self-reports to child reports and parent telephone interviews.

Heidi Bobson, PhD 2002 Private practice   


Amy Coffield Burbage, PhD 2002 Private practice - Indianapolis

Lisa Query, PhD 2000 Private practice - Williamsburg VA

Terri Lewis, PhD 1999 Associate Professor, Pediatrics-Child Abuse and Neglect/Kempe Center

Mahoney, A. , Donnelly. W. O., Boxer, P., & Lewis, T. (2003). Marital and severe parent-to-adolescent physical aggression in clinic-referred families: Co-occurrence and links to child behavior problems.  Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 3-19. 


Margaret Barham, PhD 1999 Psychologist & Consultant at State of NC Disability Determination Service


Masters thesis: Sanctification of Pregnancy Interacting with Child Temperament to Predict Parental Depressive Symptoms Across the Transition to Parenthood


Dissertation: Religious and Spiritual Coping with Parental Psychospiritual and Psychological Maltreatment of Transgender and Gender Diverse Individuals

More about Jay & CV

Jay's research interests are understanding how transgender and gender diverse individuals might use their religious/spiritual identity to cope when their family members use religion/spirituality against them (spiritual one-upmanship) or they are rejected from a religious community. In their dissertation, Jay is examining how transgender individuals who are experiencing parental psychological and psychospiritual maltreatment use R/S coping and how this impacts mental health and relationship satisfaction with the parent-child dyad. Jay's clinical interests are in conducting trauma-informed interventions with children and adolescent populations. When not working on their dissertation or doing clinical work, Jay can be found hanging out with their cat or rollerblading around BG.

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