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Mother, Father, and Self: Sources of Young Adults' God Concepts

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Following developmental attachment theory, we predicted a path in which nurturing parents affect young adults' self-concepts and self-esteem, which in turn predicts the image of a nurturing God. To ascertain how images of parents and images of self predict God images, 132 young adults aged 18–22 (M = 19) completed the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale, and a six-item measure of God's perceived involvement in their lives (religiosity scale). In a follow-up interview, they rated their parents, God, and selves on scales of closeness, nurturing, power, and punishing/judging. For men, mothers were responsible, more than fathers, for creating a climate for sons' self-esteem through nurturance and discipline, which in turn contributed to seeing God as nurturing, feeling close to God, and being more religious. For women, mothers and fathers created a model of nurturance and power, which contributed to seeing God as nurturing and powerful. Punishing/judging parents directly affected punishing/judging God images in these young adults. Men perceived God to be more punishing/judging than did women, while women perceived God to be more nurturing. Even in adulthood, parents, especially mothers, continue to exert influences on young adults' faith and images of God.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Jane R. Dickie is a Professor of Psychology and Director of Women's Studies at Hope College, Holland, MI 49423., Email: 2: Lindsey V. Ajega is a home manager for Heritage Homes, Holland, MI., Email: 3: Joy R. Kobylak is a social worker with West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI., Email: 4: Kathryn M. Nixon is a case manager for Allendale Association in Lake Villa, IL., Email:

Publication date: 2006-03-01

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