School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)


Rachel L. Piferi


attachment to God, spirituality, emerging adulthood, crisis, crises




This study consisted of a phenomenological exploration of the lived experience of individuals who identify as Christians, examined within the context of attachment to God. Eleven Ph.D. students enrolled in an online program at an evangelical institution in the southeastern United States were interviewed. The interviews were conducted online, recorded (audio and video), and transcribed within the MS Teams app. Data was analyzed, codes were established, and themes were identified. Analysis revealed that while one’s relationship with God was meaningful and secure, all indicated the presence of seeking (greater connection to God) language. Second, attachment terms were often used to describe one’s relationship with God. Third, spiritual mentors and life crises were identified as significant in helping individuals move closer to God. Finally, changes in attachment were associated with the practice of spiritual disciplines. These findings emphasize spirituality's essential and complex nature and the need for further exploration using qualitative measures. Implications for the church include the need for creating awareness of the attachment relationship available to all who desire a connection to God, the importance of educating individuals on the ways in which their human attachment relationships may influence attachment to God and the possibility that emerging adulthood may be a sensitive period for spiritual development. A finding that should be considered for future research is the importance of life crises in forming one’s attachment to God.

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Psychology Commons