Attachment and God Concepts in Japanese Young Adults

Student Author(s)

Hanna Ogawa

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Jane Dickie

Document Type


Event Date



Using Bowlby’s (1969) attachment model, studies of children and young adults conducted in Christian dominated societies suggest that early attachment relationships with parents create internal working models (IWM) of nurturance and power which then predict images of God (Dickie et al., 1997; Granqvist, 2006). This study looked at both Christians and non-Christians in the multi-religious setting of Japan to see whether or not images of parents shape images of God in contexts where Christianity's personalized God is not built into the fabric of the culture. We expected that: 1) Because Christians have a personalized concept of God, that they would rely most on the IWM of parents to describe God; 2) With continuing strict gender roles in Japan, we expected that mothers would be more important than fathers in predicting God images (Kimura and Nagai, 2004; Kumagai 1995). Sixty-three Japanese participants completed an online survey assessing their Religious beliefs, Concepts of God's, mothers' and fathers' Nurturance and Power, and their attachment to God. The result showed that the IWM of mothers were more nurturing than fathers or God for both Christians and non-Christians. As predicted, Christians viewed all attachment figures as more nurturing and powerful than did non-Christians, and as more similar to mother than father. Non-Christians viewed mother as more nurturing and powerful than father or God, but viewed God as more similar to father than mother. The result also showed being Christian even in a non-Christian context appeared to be a strong predictor of a participant’s attachment to God as well as their concept of God as nurturant and powerful. Our research suggests the value of understanding parental relationships and the internal working models of authority figures, mothers and fathers, in predicting God images, even in a non-Western, multi-religious country.

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