According to a new study by Kristin J. Homan of the Department of Psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, women who feel a secure attachment to God are more satisfied with their bodies than women who have weak God attachments. Healthy attachments provide feelings of self-worth and reinforce self-esteem. Feeling loved and accepted is at the core of a healthy attachment, and people who have this type of relationship with parents, loved ones, or others tend to be able to handle stressful situations better than those with less secure attachments. Although there is an abundant amount of research demonstrating the positive effects of healthy attachments, few studies have looked at how a secure God attachment affects women’s body satisfaction.
For her study, Homan enlisted 92 female college students and asked them to report their level of religiosity and God attachment. The women were then presented with a series of pictures depicting average-size models and super-thin models. After viewing the pictures, the women with highly anxious God attachments reported higher rates of body dissatisfaction than those with strong God attachments. “The most interesting ﬁnding, however, was that the harmful effect of exposure to thin models was weakened for those with a secure God attachment,” said Homan. Specifically, self-esteem and self-worth were much higher in the participants who felt loved by God than in those with little attachment to God. This is significant as the negative effects of poor body image can lead to food and eating problems such as bulimia and anorexia and can increase overall psychological distress.
Homan believes that the results of this study demonstrate that a secure attachment to God, similar to other secure attachments, can help protect women from the negative consequences of body dissatisfaction. Additionally, the benefits of secure attachments can extend to other stressful life events and help women cope with challenges in positive ways. The results of this study highlight the need for more research in the area of religiosity and emotional regulation and provide further support for the protective factors of healthy and strong attachments.
Homan, K. J. (2012). Attachment to God mitigates negative effect of media exposure on women’s body image. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029230
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