So, what does the science tell us? Are some forms of evangelical Protestantism bad for marriage and “good” at fostering domestic violence?
The answer is complicated, since some research suggests that gender traditionalism fuels domestic violence. For example, a study in the Lancet found that domestic abuse was higher in regions across the globe where “norms related to male authority over female behavior” are more common.
In general, however, the answer to these questions is “no.” In my previous book, Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands, I found that women married to churchgoing evangelical men—compared to women married to men in other major religious traditions or women married to unaffiliated men—report the highest levels of happiness. Their self-reports were based on two markers: “love and affection you get from your spouse” and “understanding you receive from your spouse.” This same demographic of women also report the highest levels of quality couple time.
My newer book Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos, co-written with sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger, reveals similar findings. Men and women who attend church together are almost 10 percentage points more likely to report that they are “happy” or “very happy” in their relationships, compared to their peers who attend separately or simply don’t attend religious services at all. On average, then, evangelicals (as well other religious believers in the United States) who attend church regularly enjoy higher quality marriages compared to their less religious or secular peers.