Counseling Department


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Gary Sibcy

Primary Subject Area

Psychology, Developmental; Religion, Philosophy of


Attachment, Emotion Regulation, God Attachment, Religious Coping, Spiritual Coping


Emotion regulation is an essential component of individual development, enabling a person to experience, recognize, express and modulate his emotions. There are a number of factors which influence the development of emotion regulation, including family context, biology, and primary caregiver interaction. Attachment theory provides a theoretical framework for describing these developmental influences and the resulting emotion regulation strategies an individual employs. Primary emotion regulation strategies are developed and utilized when an individual has established a secure attachment with his primary caregiver. When these secure attachments do not develop in the primary caregiver relationship, the resulting insecure attachment relationship leads the individual to develop and rely upon secondary emotion regulation strategies.

While attachment beliefs influence the ways in which a person responds to distress, coping strategies also play a significant role in emotion regulation. In particular, personal faith and religion provide individuals with a range of coping strategies which can be categorized into general positive and negative constructs, based in part on typical outcomes. What determines whether or not an individual will turn to religion in the coping process, and specifically which religious coping strategies will be employed? Attachment theory provides some direction. Research indicates that individual attachment beliefs not only shape perceptions of God as a resource in times of stress, they also influence the ways in which religion may be used to manage emotions. However, the connections between specific religious coping strategies and individual attachment beliefs are only marginally supported, due to the limited number of studies examining this relationship.

The purpose of this study was to extend current research in this area by investigating the relationship between religious coping strategies, attachment beliefs, and emotion regulation in a mixed sample of college students attending an evangelical university. Specifically, this study sought to answer the following two research questions. First, does religious coping correlate with adult attachment, God attachment, and emotion regulation? Second, does religious coping account for unique variance in emotion regulation after accounting for variance attributed to God attachment and adult attachment? The study used a cross sectional correlation research design, where college students were administered measures of adult attachment, God attachment, religious coping, and emotion regulation. The first question was addressed using a series of zero-order correlations arranged in a correlation matrix examining the relationships between the subscales of Religious Coping, Attachment, and Emotion Regulation. The second question was addressed using a series of hierarchical multiple regressions which examined whether Religious Coping accounted for unique variance in Emotion Regulation after accounting for Attachment.

The study revealed that Religious Coping was significantly correlated with both Attachment and Emotion Regulation, and these correlations supported the researcher's hypotheses in most instances. Likewise, the multiple regression analyses revealed that Religious Coping did account for unique variance in Emotion Regulation after controlling for God Attachment and Adult Attachment. However there were some unexpected findings where correlations were statistically opposite than those hypothesized. These findings require additional consideration regarding the nature of Religious Coping and Attachment beliefs for the direction of future research.