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“Soul Mates” studies the effects of religion on black and Latino families

Sociology professor co-authors book in response to racial, ethnic tensions

<p>Wilcox said he hopes “Soul Mates” will show readers the importance of positive influences in minority relationships and help people develop a deeper appreciation of American minorities.</p>

Wilcox said he hopes “Soul Mates” will show readers the importance of positive influences in minority relationships and help people develop a deeper appreciation of American minorities.

In response to the current racial and ethnic division in the United States, Associate Prof. of Sociology W. Bradford Wilcox co-wrote the recently published book “Soul Mates,” highlighting the religious and marital values of black and Latino families in the United States.

The book, co-written by Nicholas H. Wolfinger, studies “how religious faith and churchgoing are related to marriage and family life among African Americans and Latinos in the United States,” according to the book’s introduction.

Wilcox, who teaches Sociology of the Family and Sociology of Religious Behavior, became interested in these topics as an undergraduate at the University and decided to return to the subject to write “Soul Mates.”

Writing this book was “a nice way to bridge the worlds of researching and teaching at U.Va.,” Wilcox said.

In “Soul Mates,” Wilcox said he and Wolfinger wanted to focus on the strengths of black and Latino families.

“It is shown that most black and Latino couples are happy in their relationships,” Wilcox said. “In the book, we also find that most blacks and Latinos end up getting married.”

These positive marital statistics are related to churchgoing and religious participation, Wilcox said.

“Black and Latino couples often attend church together, are happier in their relationships and they’re more likely to have shared friendships,” Wilcox said. “They’re more likely to be praying together and have a higher capacity for reflecting on the past and the present and their situation together, as both a couple and a family.”

The authors also wanted to consider the role of gender given the effort to strengthen the lives of black and Latino men in the United States, Wilcox said.

“We found that men who are religious are less likely to be incarcerated, less likely to be using drugs or alcohol and more likely to be employed,” Wilcox said. “So, we argue that religion makes for a better man, and that in turn makes men more marriageable.”

However, the authors argue religious involvement does not paint the entire picture for how to close the racial and ethnic divide in the United States.

While “[r]eligious practice — be it church attendance, shared prayer, or engagement in religious friendship networks — improves marriage and family life among blacks and Latinos,” the authors assert in the book that “it will take a range of economic, cultural, and religious developments to bridge the racial and ethnic divides in American family life.”

Wilcox said he hopes “Soul Mates” will show readers the importance of positive influences in minority relationships and help people develop a deeper appreciation of American minorities.

The book “is one way of understanding how families are doing in today’s country,” Wilcox said. “We’re trying to give a positive spotlight to black and Latino families.”

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