Attachment as a Lens for Understanding Identity: The Impact of Attachment to God on Identity Formation

M. Aliza Sokol, Pace University


The literature suggests that attachment is an enduring bond (Ainsworth, 1985; Bowlby, 1982.) that impacts an individual's identity formation (Marcia, 1989.) In the absence of a secure attachment relationship an individual may seek out a surrogate attachment figure to compensate (Ainsworth, 1985) and God is suggested as a possible surrogate attachment figure (Kirkpatrick & Shaver, 1990; Granqvist & Kirkpatrick, 2013). The objective of the current study was to explore whether emerging adults can develop a compensatory attachment to God, and if so, whether it moderates the associations between attachments in close interpersonal relationships and identity formation. In a sample of 157 emerging adults ages 18-24 (52% men, 48% women) enrolled in Jewish Orthodox colleges, this study examined attachment in close relationships, attachment to God, and identity formation. Identity was positively associated with attachment avoidance and anxiety in close relationships, but not attachment avoidance and anxiety to God. Attachment to God did not act as a moderator of the associations between attachments in close relationships and identity, as was predicted. Findings did not support the presence of compensatory attachment to God or an association between attachment to God and identity formation. This paper discusses possible explanations for lack of these associations, including variability regarding the timing and nature of attachment and identity formation in emerging adults, specifically among the religious population. For clinicians, an important implication of this study is the recognition that an individual's interpersonal relationships and his/her relationship with God are distinct relationships that may operate independently. Further, a clinician should be mindful of an individual's attachment style when attempting to facilitate that individual's identity development.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Sokol, M. Aliza, "Attachment as a Lens for Understanding Identity: The Impact of Attachment to God on Identity Formation" (2016). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI10295855.



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