School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)


Brian Kelley


religious coping, resilience, Bahamians, natural disasters, hurricanes, Bahamas, positive religious coping, negative religious coping, traumatic stress, Atlantic Basin, small-island nations


Counseling | Philosophy


Life is filled with a myriad of stressors individuals must navigate to maintain physical and emotional wellness. Some life stressors can be more devastating than others, such as natural disasters. Specific regions, including the Bahamas, have experienced destructive natural disasters such as hurricanes and record-breaking superstorms in the last few decades. Consequently, citizens are exposed to significant amounts of distress due to the devastation caused by these natural disasters. How one copes and one’s level of resilience plays an integral role in managing such turbulent times. Religion can be a valuable resource for those facing traumatic circumstances. The focus of this study is to explore how Bahamians experience the burden of natural disasters, their resiliency, and the role religion plays in coping with the aftermath of such disasters. This study’s mixed-methods approach combines quantitative correlational and qualitative-phenomenological research designs gathering data from 140 participants through a trauma survey, a resilience scale, and brief Religious Coping scale (brief RCOPE). Phenomenological analysis was used to build the lived experiences of 13 participants who have experienced a natural disaster within the last five years to gain a more in-depth understanding of these variables. Based on the findings, individuals who engage in positive religious coping possessed lower levels of traumatic stress. Individuals who engaged in negative religious coping possessed higher levels of traumatic stress. Furthermore, individuals who scored high in religiosity also showed high levels of resilience during and after experiencing a natural disaster. These findings imply that efforts should be taken by clinicians, related professionals, and the church to promote positive religious coping and religiosity, which can result in the promotion of resilience and discourage negative religious coping, possibly resulting in a reduction of traumatic stress of individuals who experience natural disasters.