Attachment theory traces its roots back to psychologist JohnBowlby in the 1940s. He proposed that the mother (or primary caregiver) and infant bond in the first two years of life was so strong that any disruption to this dyadic relationship could lead to mental disorder later in life. He noted that individual differences in relational style is formed during these first years and is based upon how the child relates to their mother. Similarly, early mother-child bonds also influence God attachment, or the way one relates to God. How one views God’s availability and responsiveness, especially during times of stress is contingent upon the availability and responsiveness of the infant’s mother (Reiner, Anderson, Hall, & Hall, 2010).
Research indicates that secure attachment to others and to God is inversely associated with stress, while anxious attachment is highly correlated with stress. The reason for such is because the secure individual looks to God as a safe haven, a secure base on which to rely. When danger threatens and tough times are present, the secure person knows their safety is in God, and rests confident in this knowledge (Bradshaw, Ellison, Marcum, 2010). However, the problem remains that not all persons have been blessed to form secure attachments early on in life. Not all mothers have provided their children with security, and thus this leaves many with anxious, avoidant, and disorganized attachment styles.
For those not with a secure style, does this mean one can never relate to God as the secure person does – will the individual not be able to look to God as a secure base and safe haven? Through faith, one can begin to develop and change their relationship styles. Although infant attachment is a precursor to God attachment, it is not concrete and outside of the power of faith. As one develops their relationship with God, and begins to learn the truth of scripture, it becomes more and more apparent God’s desire, as a loving father, is to be in relationship with us. Deuteronomy 31:8 says “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." God is the perfect caregiver, and is both available and responsive to His children. He desires to be in a secure relationship with us, the question is, do you desire to be in a secure relationship with Him?
Bradshaw, M., Ellison, C. G., & Marcum, J. P. (2010). Attachment to God, images of God, and psychological distress in a nationwide sample of Presbyterians. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 20(2), 130-147.
Reiner, S. R., Anderson, T. L., Hall, M. E. L., & Hall, T. W. (2010). Adult attachment, God attachment and gender in relation to perceived stress. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 38(3), 175-185.