J Natl Med Assoc 2016 24;108(4):244-245. Epub 2016 Sep 24.
Department of Internal Medicine, Howard University College of Medicine, 2041 Georgia Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20060, USA. Electronic address:
Introduction: This book review analyzes the complex and profound impact active religious participation has on relationships and family outcomes among African Americans and Latinos. In Soul Mates, Wilcox and Wolfinger discuss the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws and the resulting devastating effects on African American and Latino families despite their high religious involvement. The authors make the case that many African American men are unlikely candidates for marriage or stable relationships due to trends of family instability driven by the declining income-power of working-class men as well as entry of more women into the labor force, government penalties for low-income couples, revolt against traditional values, increased access to birth control and abortion, and the persistence of discrimination and incarceration of minority men.
Methods: The authors examine data from six national surveys as well as additional data from interviews, focus groups, ethnographic field work, and an extensive literature review.
Results: Wilcox and Wolfinger find evidence that when African American couples actively participate in Christian churches, the men are more likely to adhere to a "code of decency" which decreases street behaviors, such as binge drinking, having multiple sex partners, and having multi-partner fertility, which are known to inhibit family stability.
Conclusions: This book will be helpful for health providers who would like to better understand and serve their African American and Latino patients. The findings suggest that health care providers can promote a healthy emotional environment for families by encouraging minority men to renew or maintain church involvement.