Secure Attachment? A Biblical And Theological Analysis -- By: J. Ryan Davidson

Journal: Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry
Volume: JDFM 03:1 (Fall 2012)
Article: Secure Attachment? A Biblical And Theological Analysis
Author: J. Ryan Davidson


Secure Attachment? A Biblical And Theological Analysis

J. Ryan Davidson

J. Ryan Davidson (M.Ed., The College of William and Mary) is pastor of Grace Baptist Chapel in Hampton, Virginia, and also serves in a counseling practice. He holds degrees from Samford University (B.A.), The College of William and Mary (M.Ed. in Counseling), and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Th.M. in Family Ministry). He is married to Christie. They have three children--Micah, Lydia, and Shaphan--and they are foster parents to children that God sends their way.

Since the middle part of the twentieth century, human relational attachment has been the focus of a widespread field of study. John Bowlby originally wrote about attachment as a set of relational behaviors in 1958 after spending several years in research and practice as a budding child psychiatrist.1 Later, his research partner, Mary Ainsworth, would delineate various types of attachment from his initial findings. Due to their work, the entire spectrum of psychological and sociological theory has been changed. Any training program in a social scientific field that purports to be exhaustive will include some study of attachment theory. Educational literature, counseling theories, and family self-help books have all been affected by attachment theory at large, and ultimately by Mary Ainsworth’s description of the secure attachment style—which is why there is a need to analyze the issue of secure attachment.

What is secure attachment? Is it biblically sound? What place might it have within Christian formation? These are the questions that this article seeks to answer. As the ideal style of attachment, “secure attachment” will be the focus of this article. As a useful sub-theory of human development, the secure attachment style must be compared with biblical truth in order for it to make the fullest, most comprehensive contribution to the Christian understanding of human development. A biblical critique of secure attachment shows that the secure attachment style is an adequate tool in understanding aspects of human development but it has to be integrated into a full-orbed picture of biblical anthropology to be the most useful for Christian formation.

Secure Attachment: Two Figures And A Definition

The year was 1928. John Bowlby had just graduated from the University of Cambridge and began to work with children who were encountering difficulty in adjustment, emotional expression, and mental health. This experience led him to pursue a career in child psychiatry through which he would eventually study at the British Psychoanalytic Institute. Under the influence of psychoanalytic theory specifically object-relations theory—Bowlby bega...

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