The Religious Problem-Solving Scale (RPS) explores the significant role that religion plays in the problem-solving process. It measures several religiously­ based problem-solving styles or orienta­tions. This scale was developed, in part, to test the hypothesis that one's religious prob­ lem-solving style is significantly associated with one's mental health.


The Religious Problem-Solving Scale is actually comprised of three separate subscales. They were designed to distinguish different degrees of responsibility assigned to self or God in solving problems, as well as the level of initiative taken in problem solv­ing. The Self-Directing, Collaborative, and Deferring subscales were based on the hy­pothesis that responsibility and initiative in problem solving is associated with greater mental health. The Self-Directing scale was based on Fromm's (1960) notion of a human­istic religion which places the responsibility for problem solving on people rather than God. The Collaborative scale was based on a notion of persons acting as co-partners with God, working together to solve life's prob­lems (Abelson, 1969; Hart, 1984). The De­ferring scale was derived from Fromm's con­cept of an authoritarian religion which stresses the passive submission of persons to an omnipotent God when faced with prob­lems.

The RPS was also based conceptually on the literature which has outlined several phases to the problem-solving process: defi­nition of the problem; generation of solu­tions; selection and implementation of the solution; and re-definition of the problem once it has been solved. Each of these phases was used in drafting items for the RPS.

The full form of the RPS consists of 36 items (12 for each sub-scale) scored on the same five point continuum from "Never" to "Always." Items from the three subscales are presented in random order. The short form of the RPS and its subscales are half the length of the full scales. A separate score is obtained for each of the three subscales by summing the points assigned to each item. The range of possible scores for each of the three scales is 5-60.

Practical Considerations:

This paper-and­ pencil measure takes approximately twenty minutes to complete in its long form (half as long in the short form). The instructions ask respondents to state how often each of the statements apply to them. No special exam­iner skills are needed to score or interpret this self-administered measure. The items in the scale are easy to comprehend.


Normative data were collected from a sample of 197 mem­bers drawn from one Presbyterian church and one Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in the Midwest. The means and standard devi­ations obtained for each of the three scales were: Collaborative (mean = 36.02, standard deviation = 10.67); Self-Directing (mean= 29.70; standard deviation= 10.71); and Deferring (mean = 25.81; standard de­viation = 9.19). Members were sampled through a procedure designed to control the effects of the degree of involvement in one's church. The sample was 57% female, 69% married, and varied in educational back­ ground. The lack of racial diversity in the sample raises questions as to the generaliz­ability of the norms among a racially di­ verse population.


Both internal consistency and test-retest reliability were found to be high. Cronbach's alpha coefficients obtained for Self-Directing, Collaborative, and Deferring problem solving were .91, .93, and .89, re­spectively. A test-retest reliability analysis of the scales over a one week period among a sample of 97 college students yielded the following reliability estimates: .93 (Collab­orative), .94 (Self-Directing), and .87 (De­ferring).

The short form of this measure also evi­denced high reliability. Cronbach's alpha coefficients demonstrated high internal con­sistency (Collaborative = .93; Self-Direct ing = .91; Deferring= .89). The short form correlated highly with the full form: Collab­orative (r = .97), Self-Directing (r = .98), and Deferring (r = .97).


As the authors predicted, the three problem-solving styles were found to be differentially associated with measures of religiousness as well as psychosocial com­petence. As expected, the Deferring orienta­tion was associated with a religious style characterized by high religious involvement and reliance on external rules. The Collabo­rative style was linked to an internalized form of religiousness based on an intimate, interactive, and highly involved relationship with God. The Self-Directing style was not associated with traditional religious interest and practices, favoring instead a quest ori­entation to religion.

Also consistent with the authors' predic­tions, the Deferring style of problem solving was negatively associated with such aspects of competence as personal control, self-es-

teem, and tolerance of ambiguity. In con­trast, the Self-Directing style was positively associated with personal control and self-es­ teem. When the effects of the Deferring and Self-Directing styles were statistically re­ moved, the Collaborative style was also found to be positively associated with per­sonal control and self-esteem.

A factor analysis of the 36 items of the RPS resulted in a three-factor solution which conformed well to the three scales of the RPS. This three factor solution lends strong support to the hypothesis that people use either a Self-Directing, Collaborative, or Deferring problem-solving style in their re­lationship with God. This finding, along with the data linking the Deferring style with poor psychosocial competence, and the data linking the Self-Directing/Collabora­tive styles with higher psychosocial compe­tence, combine to support the validity of this measure.

Religious Problem-solving Scale

Following are the items included in the Religious Problem-Solving Scale. Items from the three subscales (Collaborative, Self-Directive, and Deferring) were mixed together to form a single questionnaire. All items were scored on the same 5-point Likert continuum ranging from "never" to "always." The short form of this measure consists of the first 18 of the 36 items listed below.

  1. [C] When have a problem, talk to God about it and together we decide what it means.
  2. [DJ Rather than trying to come up with the right solution to a problem myself, let God decide how to deal with it.

  3. [SJ When faced with trouble, I deal with my feelings without God's help.

  4. [DJ When a situation makes me anxious, wait for God to take those feelings away.

  5. [C] Together, God and put my plans into action.

  6. [CJ When it comes to deciding how to solve a problem, God and work together as partners.

  7. [SJ act to solve my problems without God's help.

  8. [SJ When I have difficulty, I decide what it means by myself without help from God.

  9. [DJ I don't spend much time thinking about troubles I've had; God makes sense of them for me.

  10. [C] When considering a difficult situation, God and work together to think of possi­ ble solutions.

  11. [DJ When a troublesome issue arises, leave it up to God to decide what it means for me.

  12. [SJ When thinking about a difficulty, I try to come up with possible solutions without God's help.

  13. [C] After solving a problem, I work with God to make sense of it.

  14. [SJ When deciding on a solution, I make a choice independent of God's input.

  15. [DJ In carrying out the solutions to my problems, I wait for God to take control and know somehow He'll work it out.

  16. [DJ I do not think about different solutions to my problems because God provides them for me.

  17. [SJ After I've gone through a rough time, I try to make sense of it without relying on God.

  18. [C] When I feel nervous or anxious about a problem, I work together with God to find a way to relieve my worries.

  19. [C] When I'm upset, I try to soothe myself, and also share the unpleasantness with God so He can comfort me.
  20. [S] When faced with a decision, I make the best choice I can without God's involve­ ment.
  21. [D] God solves problems for me without my doing anything.
  22. [D] When I have a problem, I try not to think about it and wait for God to tell me what it means.
  23. [C] In carrying out solutions, I work hard at them knowing God is working right along with me.
  24. [S] When a difficult period is over, I make sense of what happened on my own without involvement from God.
  25. [C] When faced with a question, I work together with God to figure it out.
  26. [S] When I feel nervous or anxious, I calm myself without relying on God.
  27. [S] God doesn't put solutions to my problems into action; I carry them out myself.
  28. [D] I don't worry too much about learning from difficult situations, since God will make me grow in the right direction.
  29. [S] When I am trying to come up with different solutions to troubles I am facing, I do not get them from God but think of them myself.
  30. [C] When a hard time has passed, God works with me to help me learn from it.

  31. [C] God and I talk together and decide upon the best answer to my question.

  32. [D] When faced with a decision, I wait for God to make the best choice for me.
  33. [D] I do not become upset or nervous because God solves my problems for me.
  34. [D] When I run into trouble, I simply trust in God knowing that He will show me the possible solutions.
  35. [S] When I run into a difficult situation, I make sense out of it on my own without di­ vine assistance.
  36. [C] The Lord works with me to help me see a number of different ways that a problem can be solved.
  • [CJ Collaborative
  • [SJ Self-Directing
  • [DJ Deferring


Pargament, K. I., Kennell, J., Hathaway, W., Grevengoed, N., Newman, J., & Jones, W. (1988). Religion and the problem-solving process: Three styles of coping. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 27, 90-104.

Subsequent Research:

Friedel, L. A., & Pargament, K. I. (1995). Reli­gion and coping with crises in the work environ­ment. Paper presented at the 103rd annual conven­tion of the American Psychological Association, New York, NY.

Hathaway, W. & Pargament, K. I. (1990). Intrin­sic religiousness, religious coping, and psychoso­ cial competence: A covariance structure analysis. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 29, 448-461.

Schaefer, C. A., & Gorsuch, R. L. (1991). Psy­chological adjustment and religiousness: The multi­ variate belief-motivation theory of religiousness. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 30, 136-147.

Schaefer, C. A., & Gorsuch, R. L. (1993). Situa­tional and personal variations in religious coping. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 32, 136-147.

Stiehler, N. (1991). Attitude and personality characteristics of conservative and mainline/liberal church congregations. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleas­ ant, MI.


Abelson, J. (1969). The immanence of God in rabbinical literature. New York: Hermon Press.

Fromm, E. (1960). Psychoanalysis and religion. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

Hart, A. D. (1984). Coping with depression in the ministry and other helping professions. Waco: Word Books.