Skip to main content


Bradshaw, Matt; Ellison, Christopher G.; & Marcum, Jack 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. PMCID: PMC3545685


Drawing broadly on insights from attachment theory, the present study outlines a series of theoretical arguments linking styles of attachment to God, perceptions of the nature of God (i.e., God imagery), and stressful life events with psychological distress. Main effects and potential stress-moderator effects are then evaluated using data from a nationwide sample of elders and rank-and-file members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Key findings indicate that secure attachment to God is inversely associated with distress, whereas both anxious attachment to God and stressful life events are positively related to distress. Once variations in patterns of attachment to God are controlled, there are no net effects of God imagery on levels of distress. There is only modest support for the hypothesis that God images moderate the effects of stressful life events on psychological distress, but no stress-moderator effects were found for attachment to God. Study limitations are identified, and findings are discussed in terms of their implications for religion-health research, as well as recent extensions of attachment theory.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

International Journal for the Psychology of Religion


Bradshaw, Matt
Ellison, Christopher G.
Marcum, Jack P.