Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Virtues Develop from a Secure Base: Attachment and Resilience as Predictors of Humility, Gratitude, and Forgiveness

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Virtues Develop from a Secure Base: Attachment and Resilience as Predictors of Humility, Gratitude, and Forgiveness

Article excerpt

Little research has explored the role of attachment in predicting virtues. In the present study, we provide an initial investigation testing the theory that virtues develop from having secure attachment relationships and the ability to bounce back from adversity. Specifically, we examined attachment and ego resilience as predictors of humility, gratitude and forgiveness. A series of hierarchical multiple regression analyses on a community sample of 245 participants found that both attachment and resilience were significant predictors of humility, gratitude, and forgiveness, even after controlling for religiosity. These results indicate the importance of the role of attachment and resilience in the development of virtues.

This research was supported in part by a generous grant to the second author from the John Templeton Foundation, Grant No. 29630, The Development, Validation, and Dissemination of Measures of Intellectual Humility and Humility

Recent developments in neurological science and developmental psychology reveal that secure attachment is important for providing the building blocks for healthy emotion regulation, the ability to cope with stress, and the capacity to foster healthy interpersonal relationships (Fonagy, 2003; Schore, 2001; Siegel, 2001). In the present study, we examine the extent to which attachment style and resilience are related to personality constructs that are often considered virtuous, such as humility, gratitude, and forgiveness.

Attachment styles are relational patterns that are formed during early childhood interactions with caregivers. They influence people's interactions with others throughout their lives (Ainsworth, 1979; Karen, 1994; Lawler-Row, Younger, Piferi, & Jones, 2006). Attachment is often measured in terms of anxious and avoidant dimensions (Fraley, Waller, & Brennan, 2000). In response to relationship threats, those with an anxious attachment style fear that the attachment figure will be rejecting or unresponsive to their needs; in contrast,

those with an avoidant attachment style tend to minimize the importance of and seek to psychologically distance from attachment figures (Ainsworth, 1979; Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991). Those with a secure attachment style (i.e., lower scores on anxiety and avoidance dimensions) have relationships with attachment figures that are characterized by a balance of closeness and independence.

Attachment security is a robust predictor of psychological health in a variety of populations (e.g., Dieper-ink, Leskela, Thuras, & Engdahl, 2001; Love & Murdock, 2004). Individuals who are securely attached are confident that the attachment figure will be responsive to their needs and experience their close relationships as a "secure base" (Ainsworth, 1979, p. 934). This, in turn, affords them the confidence needed to explore their environments, take risks, and gain new experiences. Knowing that one has a secure base to which he or she can retreat provides a regulating mechanism for securely attached individuals to face potential stressors in their environment.

We propose that attachment security--opera-tionally defined by low attachment avoidance and anxiety--provides a foundation for the practice of relational virtues such as humility, gratitude, and forgiveness. We refer to these as relational virtues because they govern the process of strengthening and repairing relationships (Davis et al., 2013). To practice each of these virtues well, we theorize that individuals likely must have developed a positive view of self and other, which is characterized by secure attachment (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991). For example, humility involves the ability to have an accurate view of self and an awareness of one's limitations, and having a secure attachment may allow an individual to practice this aspect of humility without feeling the need to self-enhance. Furthermore, humility involves having a stance that is other-oriented rather than self-focused (Davis et al. …

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