Award Date

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Shane Kraus

Second Committee Member

Kris Gunawan

Third Committee Member

Marta Meana

Fourth Committee Member

Kathleen Callahan

Fifth Committee Member

Jennifer Vanderlaan

Number of Pages



While no consistent definition yet exists for religious trauma, religious abuse is typically defined as a misuse of authority by a spiritual leader to coerce, control, or exploit those under their leadership, which may in turn lead to the experience of religious trauma. Numerous studies suggest that experiencing abuse within a religious environment is a both global phenomenon and common experience. The impact of religious abuse has recently gained greater media attention, specifically related to the social and psychological impact of leaving high-cost religious groups (i.e., those with rigid rules or groups from which departure leads to isolation and rejection from the group members), influence on sexual behavior, and poor mental health outcomes among those who leave high-cost groups. The Spiritual Abuse Questionnaire (SAQ) is a self-report measure initially developed to assess for religious abuse across clinical practice and research settings. However, the SAQ has not yet been validated in racially or gender diverse or significantly non-Christian samples. For my thesis, I examined the factor structure of the SAQ, conducted measurement invariance to determine equivalence of the factors across gender, then evaluated the relationships between religious abuse, religiosity, purity culture, depression, and anxiety. Specifically, I conducted both exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analyses to test and verify the factor structure of the SAQ, as well as testing the one-week test-retest reliability. Once I identified the configural model, I then conducted measurement invariance analyses to investigate the validity of the SAQ across gender (male, female). Next, I examined the prevalence of religious trauma among a diverse sample of undergraduate university students, as well as examined the relationships among religious trauma, and depression and anxiety symptoms. Research findings will help inform clinicians and researchers of the prevalence of religious trauma, its potential impact on mental health, and the suitability of a measure for assessing religious trauma in young adults.


measure; psychometric; religion; sex; validation


Clinical Psychology | Mental and Social Health | Religion

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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