Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Attachment to God and Implicit Spirituality: Clarifying Correspondence and Compensation Models

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Attachment to God and Implicit Spirituality: Clarifying Correspondence and Compensation Models

Article excerpt

This article empirically investigates two alternative, competing hypotheses regarding human attachment patterns and attachment patterns with respect to people's spiritual experiences of relationship with God. The correspondence model posits that attachment patterns with humans correspond to, or are reflected in attachment patterns in individuals' experiences of God. The compensation model, in contrast proposes that attachment patterns with humans do not correspond to God attachment patterns presumably because God functions as a substitute attachment figure for those with insecure human attachments. Overall, the evidence has been somewhat mixed, with some findings supporting correspondence and some supporting compensation. It is argued here that this is due to limitations of the conceptual models, more specifically, lack of clarity regarding the compensation model, and the limited way in which spirituality and religiousness has been conceptualized and measured. We propose a conceptual distinction between implicit spiritual functioning and explicit spiritual functioning, which reflect two separate ways of knowing and processing emotional information: explicit knowledge and implicit relational knowledge (Stern et al., 1998). Based on this distinction, we propose a conceptual model arguing that correspondence operates at implicit levels of spiritual experience, and that human attachment patterns are not associated with explicit spiritual functioning. Results overall provided strong support for this model.

Attachment and religion research in the past 15 years has focused on the question of continuities and discontinuities between attachment patterns in close human relationships and patterns of attachment with respect to religious/spiritual beliefs and experiences. The conceptual question at issue, proposed by Kirkpatrick and Shaver (1990), is whether people's religious beliefs and experiences correspond to their internal working models of human attachment figures, or, in contrast, whether religious beliefs and experiences compensate, or substitute for the lack of secure attachment relationships with primary caregivers. The purpose of the present study is to offer initial empirical support for an alternative theory to explain the differences between correspondence and compensation at the level of implicit knowledge.

COMPENSATION AND CORRESPONDENCE: EMPIRICAL FINDINGS

On the surface, it appears that the empirical literature to date presents a rather inconsistent picture. On the one hand, a number of studies in the areas of attachment and object relations functioning suggest correspondence. For example, secure attachment in current relationships has been associated with perceptions of God as more loving, less distant and controlling (Brokaw & Edwards, 1994; Hall, Brokaw, Edwards, & Pike, 1998), and of one's relationship with God as more stable and emotionally close (Hall & Edwards, 2002). In addition, retrospective reports of secure attachment history have been associated with higher levels of orthodox Christian beliefs (Merck & Johnson, 1995). Two recent studies found evidence directly supporting correspondence between anxious attachment in romantic relationships and anxious attachment to God (Beck & McDonald, 2004; Rowatt & Kirkpatrick, 2002).

On the other hand, several studies have provided partial support for some form of compensation. Individuals with histories of avoidant attachment were found to be more likely to have experienced a sudden religious conversion during adolescence or adulthood (Granqvist, 1998; Granqvist & Hagekull, 1999; Kirkpartrick, 1999; Kirkpatrick & Shaver, 1990). In a four- year longitudinal study, women who reported insecure adult attachment styles in romantic relationships (both anxious and avoidant) were more likely to have "found a new relationship with God" than women who reported a secure attachment history (Kirkpatrick, 1997). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.