Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

God's Shield: The Relationship between God Attachment, Relationship Satisfaction, and Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACOA) Status in a Sample of Evangelical Graduate Counseling Students

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

God's Shield: The Relationship between God Attachment, Relationship Satisfaction, and Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACOA) Status in a Sample of Evangelical Graduate Counseling Students

Article excerpt

This study explored the effect of attachment to God and a history of an alcoholic parent on adult relationship satisfaction. A total of 267 participants from an evangelical graduate program in professional counseling were administered the Adult Children of Alcoholics Screening Test (CAST), Attachment to God Inventory (AGI), Desirability of Control Scale (DC), Experiences in Close Relationships Scale-Revised (ECRR), Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MCSD), and Relationship Satisfaction Questionnaire (RSAT). Both Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOAs) and non-ACOAs with a secure God attachment reported higher adult relationship satisfaction. For ACOAs, God attachment accounted for a statistically significant amount of unique variance in relationship satisfaction (R^sup 2^ Change = .236), after controlling for romantic attachment. Results of the current study indicate that secure attachment to God may override the effects of being raised in an alcoholic home on adult relationship satisfaction. Potential implications and applications for ACOAs and their family members, the counseling field, the church, counselor trainees, and graduate counseling programs are discussed.

John Bowlby (1958) and Harry Harlow (1958) discovered that over time the attachment bond between infants and their caregivers is reinforced by a history of consistent, sensitive, and responsive care by the caregiver (Green & Goldwyn, 2002; Park, Cracker, & Mickelson, 2004). While a sensitive, responsive relationship with the caregiver can create a secure attachment relationship model where faith and trust in the self and others are deeply entrenched, a neglectful and/or abusive relationship can create an insecure attachment model characterized by ambiguity and a lack of trust (Cracker & Park, 2004).

The existence of attachment and attachment relationships continues throughout the lifespan (Cassidy, 1999). In infancy these attachments tend to be with other family members and/or those individuals who engage actively in the child's care. In middle childhood, new attachments develop with individuals outside of the family as children are spending time with these individuals. Adolescence and early adulthood involve attachment with intimate others. Bowlby (1969/1982) theorized that the attachment relationship developed in infancy correlates with later love relationships. Adult relationships include parent to child, partner to partner, and adult child to older parent.

Focusing on adult romantic relationships, Hazan and Shaver's seminal studies on adult romantic relationships (Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Shaver & Hazan, 1988; Shaver, Hazan, & Bradshaw, 1988) supported the perspective that romantic love can be interpreted as an attachment process. Attachment has also been shown to affect overall relationship satisfaction (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007).

Relationship Satisfaction

Individuals with different attachment styles experience romantic relationships in diverse ways which, in turn, affects relationship satisfaction (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007). For example, various studies have found that securely attached adults tend to make more practical analyses of their partners' behaviors, define relationships as supportive and comforting, and present as more positive and trusting (Feeney, 1999; Miller & Noirot, 1999). Feeney, Noller, and Hanrahan (1994) found that secure attachment was associated with marital satisfaction, although mutual negotiation of conflict was the single most important predictor of satisfaction for both spouses. Other research has suggested that insecurely attached adults experience guarded and conflicted relationships and rate their adult relationships as ranging from desirable, but unpredictable, to clearly threatening (Lopez & Brennan, 2000).

As an example of such research, Feeney (1996) found support for the relationship between attachment and marital satisfaction. Among a sample of married couples, secure attachment was associated with marital satisfaction and with favorable care-giving to the spouse. …

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