Review of Religious Research

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 493–511

Attachment to God, Stressful Life Events, and Changes in Psychological Distress

  • Christopher G. Ellison
  • Matt Bradshaw
  • Nilay Kuyel
  • Jack P. Marcum
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s13644-011-0023-4

Cite this article as:
Ellison, C.G., Bradshaw, M., Kuyel, N. et al. Rev Relig Res (2012) 53: 493. doi:10.1007/s13644-011-0023-4


Considerable research shows that social relationships, attachments, and support systems promote emotional well-being. The present study adds to this literature by examining the connection between attachments to God and psychological distress. Analyzing longitudinal data (two waves) from a study of Presbyterian (PCUSA) elders and rank-and-file laypersons, results show that: (1) a secure attachment to God at baseline is associated with a decrease in distress over time; (2) a secure attachment to God buffers against the deleterious effects of stressful life events on distress; and (3) an anxious attachment to God exacerbates the harmful effects of stress. In these analyses, a secure attachment to God is a more robust predictor of changes in distress than many, more commonly studied variables including race, gender, SES, and church attendance. Future research should therefore replicate and extend this line of promising scholarship by examining additional outcomes such as psychiatric illness, physical health, and even mortality risk.


ReligionMental healthAttachment theoryStressPsychological distress

Copyright information

© Religious Research Association, Inc. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher G. Ellison
    • 1
  • Matt Bradshaw
    • 2
  • Nilay Kuyel
    • 3
  • Jack P. Marcum
    • 4
  1. 1.University of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Isik UniversityIstanbulTurkey
  4. 4.Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)LouisvilleUSA