One of the research areas I've been heavily involved in over the last few years has been the Attachment to God research. My biggest contribution to this literature has been the publication, along with my friend Angie McDonald, of the Attachment to God Inventory, a widely used measure in the field.
Attachment to God, pioneered by Lee Kirkpatrick, is a hot and growing area in the psychology of religion literature. Why? For a few reasons. Much of the psychology religion literature has been built around motivational or well-being measures and these assessment models have proven either problematic or limited.
From the motivational camp many researchers have attempted to identify the correlates of intrinsic versus extrinsic religious motives, the ones famously described by Gordon Allport. However, Allport's Religious Orientation Scale (ROS), intended to operationalize these motives, has been a disappointment. Specifically, it appears that the Intrinsic subscale of the ROS (the measure intended to capture mature religious strivings) simply captures a generalized interest in religion.
Other researchers have tended to focus on spiritual well-being. The Spiritual Well-being Scale (SWS) is a commonly used measure in this area. I myself use the SWS a lot. It's a great tool. The trouble is that the SWS is atheoretical. Thus, the God-relationship might be "hot" or "cold" as assessed by the SWS, but the SWS doesn't give you a model as to why the relationship feels as it does to the believer. It's like asking someone how their marriage is. The answer "It's okay" just doesn't give you a sense as to what is going on. Why is it just "okay"? The SWS is kind of like this. Good at description but poor at explanation.
So, much of the enthusiasm surrounding the application of attachment theory to religion is that it moves past mere interest in religion and gets more directly at the God-relationship (and thus improves upon the intrinsic/extrinsic models). Further, attachment models are theory-rich. The supporting framework of attachment theory is huge, both theoretically and empirically. Thus, attachment to God research swims in a deep ocean of ideas, insights, and results (an improvement of over the spiritual well-being approach).
So, welcome to Attachment to God research! This series is an informal and personal tour of the main ideas and developments in the literature. One researcher's take on the field. Hope you enjoy it.
The Attachment to God Series:
Part 1: God as Parent and Lover
Part 2: God and the Attachment Bond
Part 3: Attachment Styles and God
Part 4: The Attachment to God Inventory
Interlude: Denominational Personalities
Part 5: Correspondence or Compensation?
Part 6: Reappraisal and the Road Ahead