Attachment to God and implicit spirituality: clarifying correspondence and compensation models.


Rosemead School of Psychology

Publication Date

Winter 2009


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 fig- ure 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.


Experience (Religion); Attachment behavior

Publication Title

Journal of Psychology & Theology





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