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Attachment in Religion and Spirituality

A Wider View

Pehr Granqvist
Foreword by Phillip R. Shaver

Hardcovere-bookprint + e-book
March 6, 2020
ISBN 9781462542680
Price: $47.00
424 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
January 21, 2020
ePub and PDF ?
Price: $47.00
424 Pages
print + e-book
Hardcover + e-Book (ePub and PDF) ?
Price: $94.00 $51.70
424 Pages

Synthesizing diverse strands of theory and research, this compelling book explores the psychology of religion and spirituality through an innovative attachment lens. Pehr Granqvist examines the connections between early caregiving experiences, attachment patterns, and individual differences in religious cognition, experience, and behavior. The function of a deity as an attachment figure is analyzed, as are ways in which attachment facilitates the intergenerational transmission of religion. The book also shows how the attachment perspective can aid in understanding mystical experiences, connections between religion and mental health, and cultural differences between more and less religious societies. Granqvist's conversational writing style, concrete examples, and references to popular culture render complex concepts accessible.

“This book offers academics, psychoanalysts, and other clinicians of diverse fields and orientations a helpful overview as well as stimulating reading, challenging the reader to attend to complexity and to think beyond disciplinary boundaries….Granqvist’s book will stimulate ideas and inspire creative work concerning what people attach to, what faith or worldview they develop, and how that may change as they go through their lives.”

International Journal for the Psychology of Religion

“Granqvist is in direct line of intellectual descent from the founders of attachment theory….Attachment in Religion and Spirituality has surprised at every turn. It is…among the most lively and accessible pieces of scholarship I have read. The chapters and the narrative flow of the book are well-organized and coherent. Anyone could pick up this book and enjoy it….Attachment in Religion and Spirituality is a terrific read and a thought-provoking contribution to both discussions in the psychology of religion and to scholarship on attachment. But much more than a creative integration of two subdisciplines, the book will interest readers from across the field of psychology, given that Granqvist’s concerns encompass topics as varied as individual differences, communal processes, evolutionary theory, and the politics of the welfare state. The success of Attachment in Religion and Spirituality speaks well to the ongoing vitality and relevance of attachment theory.”

The American Journal of Psychology

“An intriguing, indeed remarkable book. Drawing on both his own and many others’ interview-based and observational studies, Granqvist finds that our attachments to God can be characterized similarly to our attachments to intimate friends, partners, and parents—as secure, avoidant, ambivalent and/or disorganized. Bowlby and Ainsworth would have found great value in this work.”

—Mary Main, PhD, Department of Psychology (Emerita), University of California, Berkeley

“Granqvist reminds me at times of William James, and, like James's work, much of this book sings. It is a delight to read. Granqvist combines a keen, critical mind with an appreciated humility. No one should consider studying attachment and the psychology of religion/spirituality without first thoroughly mastering this book.”

—Ralph W. Hood, Jr., PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

“Fascinating, informative, and thought provoking, this book is a 'must read' for researchers and students concerned with the psychology of religion, and for anyone interested in understanding the psychodynamic basis of religious beliefs. Granqvist advances his innovative thesis with tight logic and irrefutable evidence, revealing that religion and spirituality have a surprisingly simple beginning in infant–parent interactions. The book provides an up-to-date, comprehensive synthesis of attachment research and ideas from other areas, such as theology, psychoanalysis, and evolutionary perspectives. His elegant and scientifically sound 'religion-as-attachment' approach helps explain much about people's religious beliefs and behavior. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, both as an attachment researcher and as someone seeking to understand why religion and spirituality can sometimes lead to happiness and thriving, and other times to suffering and pain.”

—Mario Mikulincer, PhD, Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel

“Much important new theorizing and creative research on religion has been done in psychology and related fields, inspiring Pehr Granqvist to write this important and fascinating new work. Fortunately for anyone interested in attachment theory, religion, and their interconnections, the book is a gem! It is very broad ranging (hence the subtitle’s “wider view”), impressively multidisciplinary, and beautifully organized and argued.…Granqvist has done an excellent job of combining modern evolutionary, cognitive, and developmental theories and research….The book is destined to become a classic.”

—From the Foreword by Phillip R. Shaver, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology Emeritus, University of California, Davis

Table of Contents

Foreword, Phillip R. Shaver

Prologue: Setting the Stage

I. Normative Aspects of Attachment, Religion, and Spirituality

1. Normative Features of Attachment sample

2. God as a Noncorporeal Attachment Figure

3. Religious and Spiritual Development in Relation to Attachment Maturation

II. Individual Differences in Attachment, Religion, and Spirituality

4. Individual Differences in Attachment

5. The Correspondence Pathway

6. The Compensation Pathway

III. Expansions: A Wider View of Attachment and Religion/Spirituality

7. Religion as Attachment in Relation to Mental Health

8. Altered Spiritual States, Dissociation, and Attachment Disorganization

IV. Points of Convergence and Divergence

9. Attachment Theory and the Psychology and Psychoanalysis of Religion

10. Attachment and the Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience of Religion

V. Beyond Attachment, Religion, and Spirituality: The Psychology of Secularism

11. God versus the Welfare State



About the Author

Pehr Granqvist, PhD, is Professor of Developmental Psychology at Stockholm University, Sweden. He has studied the attachment–religion connection since the mid-1990s, originally as part of his doctoral studies at Uppsala University, Sweden. His research in this area—as well as in the psychology of religion and the field of attachment more generally—is widely cited and recognized internationally. Dr. Granqvist is a recipient of the Margaret Gorman Early Career Award from Division 36 (Psychology of Religion and Spirituality) of the American Psychological Association and the Godin Prize from the International Association for the Psychology of Religion, among others. In 2018, he was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.


Researchers and students in social, personality, and developmental psychology.

Course Use

May serve as a supplemental text in graduate-level courses.