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Sanctification: A meta-analytic review

Review of studies measuring sanctification and outcome variables.

By Julie Pomerleau, BS, Serena Wong, MEd, and Annette Mahoney, PhD

Sanctification is defined as “perceiving an aspect of life as having divine significance and character” (Mahoney, Pargament, & Hernandez, 2013) and has been researched in various domains such as marriage, parenting, pregnancy, sexuality, strivings, body, work, environment, forgiveness and dreams. Sanctification has theistic (i.e., viewing a domain as a manifestation of God or the divine) and non-theistic (i.e., viewing a domain as having sacred qualities) components. We were interested in the magnitude and direction of the relationship between sanctification and its various correlates (e.g., relationship satisfaction, investment and commitment).

We reviewed 37 studies ( n cases = 361) published in peer-reviewed journals from 1999 to September 2014 that included a measure of sanctification. Meta-analytic techniques were used to convert sanctification-correlate associations into standardized effect size z r 's. Using a random effects model, a significant relationship emerged between sanctification and all correlates, z r = .26 (95% C.I. = .23-.28). This indicates that sanctification has a moderate relationship with positive psychological variables.

Below we outline notable findings by domain:

  • Sanctification of marriageis moderately related ( zr = .32) to greater levels of marital satisfaction (e.g., quality, adjustment, perceived benefits), marital commitment (e.g. investment), positive coping and communication styles and lower levels of marital dissatisfaction (e.g., conflict) in self-report, behavioral, cross-sectional and longitudinal methods.
  • Sanctification of parent-child relationships is moderately associated ( zr =.19) with a better self-reported parenting experience (e.g., lower parental stress, positive parenting strategies, relationship satisfaction, investment, parental self-efficacy, open communication and spiritual disclosure) throughout the child's infancy to young adulthood.
  • Sanctification of pregnancy is highly related ( zr = .88) to positive spiritual outcomes (e.g., spiritual investment, spiritual emotions and spiritual coping).
  • Sanctification of sexuality is moderately associated ( zr = .22) with relational, emotional and spiritual outcomes (e.g., sexual satisfaction, sexual intimacy, marital satisfaction, spiritual intimacy, positive emotions about sex, more frequent sex) in a married community sample and unmarried college students.
  • Sanctification of strivings is moderately related ( zr = .33) to higher levels of commitment, interest, time devoted to strivings, greater meaning and joy and happiness derived from pursuing strivings (e.g., family relationships, self-development, career, finances, spiritual growth, health and travel).  
  • Sanctification of the body is modestly associated ( zr = .11) with positive psychological and health-protective behavioral variables (e.g., body satisfaction and exercise).
  • Sanctification of workis moderately related ( zr = .22) to positive job-related variables (e.g., job satisfaction, commitment and low turnover intention).
  • Sanctification of the environment is modestly related ( zr = .12) to pro-environmental attitudes and behavior.
  • Sanctification of forgiveness is moderately associated ( zr = .20) with self-reported forgiveness.


Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., & Hernandez, K. M. (2013). Heaven on earth: Beneficial effects of sanctification for individual and interpersonal well-being. In J. Henry (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 397-410). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

For a full list of studies included in the meta-analysis, please contact Serena Wong and Julie Pomerleau. We are preparing a manuscript for publication and plan to incorporate newly published sanctification studies. Please contact us if you have any suggestions or questions.