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      Attachment theory and religious violence: theorizing adult religious psychopathology


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          This paper explores the ways in which attachment disruptions might increase the risk of adult religious psychopathology by drawing parallels between the possible symbolisms lying behind religious violence and the concept of attachment. It is first argued that the relationship between a religious believer and a religious figure can be explained as an attachment experience. Secondly, it is proposed that when a religious attachment figure becomes a target of slander, or an action is perpetrated to disrupt the bond with such a figure, the religious believer may be predisposed to defensive, adaptive reactions, in the form of protest, despair, or detachment, to protect their attachment bond and resolve the disruptions that threaten their religious attachment identity. Support for this theoretical proposition was obtained through discourse analyses of three case examples (Charlie Hebdo vs al-Qaeda, Boko Haram vs the Nigerian government, and Pastor Terry Jones vs Islamic radicalisation), which position attachment theory as an alternative explanatory framework for conceptualising religious violence as a form of religious attachment-psychopathology-aimed at safeguarding the affectional bond with a religious figure from whom one may have developed a sense of identity and safe haven.

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          Most cited references 82

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          Attachments beyond infancy.

           M D Ainsworth (1989)
          Attachment theory is extended to pertain to developmental changes in the nature of children's attachments to parents and surrogate figures during the years beyond infancy, and to the nature of other affectional bonds throughout the life cycle. Various types of affectional bonds are examined in terms of the behavioral systems characteristic of each and the ways in which these systems interact. Specifically, the following are discussed: (a) the caregiving system that underlies parents' bonds to their children, and a comparison of these bonds with children's attachments to their parents; (b) sexual pair-bonds and their basic components entailing the reproductive, attachment, and caregiving systems; (c) friendships both in childhood and adulthood, the behavioral systems underlying them, and under what circumstances they may become enduring bonds; and (d) kinship bonds (other than those linking parents and their children) and why they may be especially enduring.
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            The consequences of modernity

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              Adult attachment in a nationally representative sample.

              The explosion of adult attachment research in the last decade has been limited by its reliance on college student and distressed samples. Using a large nationally representative sample of American adults, the authors examined the relation of sociodemographics, childhood adversity, parental representations, adult psychopathology, and personality traits to adult attachment in an effort to replicate previous findings and extend the theory. Distribution of adult attachment styles was similar to that in prior studies: 59% secure, 25% avoidant, and 11% anxious. Adult attachment was associated with several sociodemographic variables (e.g., income, age, race) not previously studied. Childhood adversities of an interpersonal nature were strongly related to insecure adult attachment. Various types of adult psychopathologies and personality traits were also strongly related to adult attachment. Implications for adult attachment theory and future research are discussed.

                Author and article information

                Role: ND
                Journal for the Study of Religion
                J. Study Relig.
                Association for the Study of Religion in Southern Africa (Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa )
                : 30
                : 1
                : 78-109
                orgnameUniversity Stellenbosch orgdiv1Faculty of Theology Stellenbosch South Africa v.counted@ 123456westernsydney.edu.au
                orgnameWestern Sydney University Australia orgdiv1School of Social Science and Psychology

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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