The Attachment to God Series

Dear Reader,
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

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

2 thoughts on “The Attachment to God Series”

  1. Fantastic to find this thinking! I began reflecting seriously on attachment in the process of adopting my beautiful Chinese baby daughter. Was studying Theology at the time and also began reflecting on attachment to God - now I know there are many psychologists and theologians who have beaten me to it! God is constantly delighting in revealing facets of Godself to engage and enchant us. Thank you so much for this series - I shall read with delight and know my attachment to God will be re-energised as a result.

  2. Good day Mr. Beck! I have read about your posts and I really got interested to use this Attachment to God Inventory for my thesis. 

    I am Reyna Mari Yamzon, a Filipino fourth year BSPsychology student from Cavite State University - Main Campus.
    I am conducting my research1 this semester and I am searching for an instrument to use in my study until I saw this attachment to God Inventory and felt really thankful. I found this very interesting and I am thinking if you will allow me to use this as an instrument for my study. My study is to determine the level of depression of students with Attachment to God and Attachment to Parents. I merely like to know if this Attachment to God or Parents has its relation on the depression level of my respondents. You can deal with me Sir.
    I am hoping for your immediate response. You can also email me at Thank you very much in advance!
    May God bless you more. :)))

Leave a Reply