Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Attachment to God: The Attachment to God Inventory, Tests of Working Model Correspondence, and an Exploration of Faith Group Differences

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Attachment to God: The Attachment to God Inventory, Tests of Working Model Correspondence, and an Exploration of Faith Group Differences

Article excerpt

Recent theoretical and empirical work by Lee Kirkpatrick and others has suggested that relationship with God can be fruitfully described as an attachment bond. However, this literature has been limited by the lack of a sound theoretical and psychometric scale that operationalizes the attachment to God construct. Toward that end, the paper presents data from three samples, two college and one community sample, describing the psychometric properties of the Attachment to God Inventory (AGI) as well as providing tests of the correspondence and compensation hypotheses. In general, the AGI subscales of Avoidance of Intimacy and Anxiety about Abandonment display good factor structure, internal consistency, and construct validity. Comparisons of the AGI with adulthood attachment measures appear to support, albeit weakly, a correspondence between working models of romantic others and God.

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Can a relationship with God be described within an attachment framework? The generalization of Bowlby's (1969, 1973, 1980) Attachment Theory regarding infant-caregiver bonds to adulthood love relationships has generated a wealth of research over the last two decades regarding the dynamics of personal relationships in adulthood (see Simpson & Rholes, 1998, for an edited volume providing an excellent overview of the field). However, one might question if Attachment Theory can be generalized to relationships between an individual and a Deity. And yet, recent theoretical and empirical work done by Lee Kirkpatrick and others has suggested that an attachment framework may provide an interesting line of inquiry in the psychology of religion literature.

God as an attachment figure

In describing the attachment bond, Ainsworth (1985) delineated four criteria: Maintaining proximity with the attachment figure, seeing the attachment figure as a secure base of explorative behavior, considering the attachment figure as providing a haven of safety, and experiencing separation anxiety when removed from the attachment figure (leading to grief if the attachment figure is also lost). Using these criteria, Kirkpatrick (1999) has persuasively argued that relationship with God can be described as an attachment bond. (Although Biblical passages suggest that God has been viewed in the Judeo-Christian tradition as a mother, father, and a lover, it is less clear how an attachment model describes Deity/Person relationships in other world religions, particularly if the Deity is not thought of as "personal" in nature. Consequently, in this series of studies we chose to focus our attention on the Judeo-Christian tradition, Christianity in particular. We revisit this issue in our subsequent discussions.)

Empirical research concerning attachment with God

The limited but growing empirical literature concerning attachment with God and the relationship between attachment styles and religiosity has suggested that attachment perspectives are a fruitful line of investigation in the psychology of religion research. In two studies, Kirkpatrick and Shaver (1990, 1992) found relationships between attachment style and religious variables such as religious belief, commitment, and involvement; God image; conversion experiences; and experiences of glossolalia. In addition, Kirkpatrick (1997, 1998) in two longitudinal studies, found evidence that God may serve as a compensatory attachment figure for individuals displaying insecure attachment patterns. Granqvist (1998) also found evidence that individuals may use God as a substitute attachment figure; although Granqvist suggested that this process may be more complex than previously thought. Others have found relationships between adulthood attachment and spiritual maturity (TenElshof & Furrow, 2000).

Assessing attachment to God and the "compensation or correspondence hypothesis"

Although the empirical research has suggested intriguing relationships between attachment variables and religious constructs, this literature has been limited by the lack of a psychometrically sound instrument to assess attachment to God. …

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