Div. 36 Award Recipients

Meet the Div. 36 award winners.

By Stephanie Winkeljohn Black, PhD

Award Recipients, Div. 36

Congratulations to the division's award recipients this year. Their names are below, with links to their research abstracts.


Abbigail Tamez, University of Texas at San Antonio (Student Award Winner)

“Personal Relationships with God as Secure Attachment: Measures, Factor Structures and Validity”

The attachment framework (Bowlby, 1969/2008) has commonly been used to conceptualize people's relationships with God. Secure attachments to God (ATG) have been associated with positive psychological outcomes. But some measurement issues remain. Common measures have few positively worded items tapping secure ATG, that incorporate God's unique qualities as an attachment figure — facets important for content validity (e.g., Kimball et al., 2013; Proctor et al., 2009). The current study appears to be a first simultaneous look at the factor structures and content validity of several ATG measures, including 60 new items based on previous research. N = 116 members of the Christian faith, many who feel close to God, took an anonymous online survey. The well-known two attachment dimensions, avoidance and anxiety, emerged, most notably, in combined analyses for common measures: the Attachment to God Scale (ATGS) and the Attachment to God Inventory (AGI). Also importantly, measures tapping distinct attachment criteria (Ainsworth) loaded soundly on a single factor, per previous research (Sim & Loh, 2003), which was found to be the avoidance dimension (i.e., Brennan et al., 1998). Measures positively worded for secure ATG tapped avoidance, as opposed to anxiety or something separate. Sub-factors emerged for AGI-Anxiety, the Emotionally Based Religiosity Scale and newly created items. Surprisingly, factor loadings and reliability were very high for new items. Preliminary evidence for their convergent and discriminant validity emerged. New item content fit the ATG dimensions. Evidence also suggested possible issues with established measures discussed prior. Data were combined and reduced for future research.

Keywords: relationships with God, attachment, spirituality, measurement, psychometrics, mental health

The student research award will also fund a replication and extension looking at attachment and positive narrative motifs in contemporary Christian worship music; and further ATG measure comparisons, including relations with a number of outcome variables and worship music listening.

Melanie Stearns, Mississippi State University (Student Award Winner)

“Regional Parenting and Religiosity: The Context of Region and Conservatism”

Although parental religiosity generally has been associated with positive child outcomes, it also has been connected to the use of corporal punishment and authoritarian parenting style. Thus, there must be other variables which influence how the interaction between religiosity and parenting practices influence child outcomes, such as regional differences (i.e., conservatism, different religions, etc.). For example, research has found that paternal authoritarian parenting was associated with increased externalizing and internalizing problems in adolescents in non-conservative Protestant families but not in conservative Protestant families. The current study examines both maternal and paternal variables, extending the study to emerging adults, examining emerging adult gender, various religions and different regions of the United States (i.e., Northeast, South, Midwest, West), as well as levels of conservatism. The current study will use an MTURK sample and ask participants to report their parents' religiosity, parenting style and conservatism as well as their own religiosity and region where they grew up. Structural equation modeling will be used to measure if parenting style will moderate the relationship between parental religiosity and child outcomes and if that interaction is further moderated by conservatism (i.e., 3-way interaction). Geographic region (i.e., Northeast, South, Midwest, West), zip code and urban vs. rural data also will be examined as they are known to covary with conservatism. In general, authoritative and high religiosity likely will have positive emerging adult outcomes; however, very conservative religiosity has been linked to authoritarian practices, which may not have such a negative impact in the context of conservative, strict values (e.g., the strictness is normative owing in part to their conservative religion).

Caroline Kaufman, University of Memphis (Student Award Winner)

“Spirituality and Resilience among a Diverse and At-Risk Adolescent and Young Adult Population”

Mandrila Das, Texas Tech University (Student Award Winner)

“Mindfulness and Self-Compassion: The Relationship between Disordered Eating and Motivation for Exercise” 

Anondah R. Saide, University of California-Riverside (Student Award Winner)

“Intergenerational Transmission of Religious and Scientific Concepts: Religious versus Secular Family Contexts”

This research study integrates scholarship from multiple disciplines to examine the moderators and mediators of parent-to-child transmission of religious and scientific concepts. Specifically, this research: (a) descriptively measures the content of both children's and parent's concepts of God and germs, (b) examines predictors (e.g., individual difference characteristics and cultural input) of parents' and children's concepts and (c) examines factors (e.g., perceived importance of concept, theory-of-mind, perceptions of parental expertise) that may facilitate or inhibit successful transmission of those concepts from parent-to-child. This research is distinctive in at least three ways: (a) it is interdisciplinary, (b) it incorporates factors that are not usually studied together in concept transmission and (c) examines parent-child transmission with families from religious and secular contexts. Religious and non-religious parents may communicate different values to their children. Recent research  (e.g., Corriveau, Chen, & Harris, 2015; Richert et al., 2017)  suggests that there are cognitive developmental differences between children raised in these contexts — differences in how they conceptualize God and in how they distinguish between reality and fantasy.  Whether or how transmission mechanisms differ in these two contexts constitutes an important understudied line of research.

Christina Rush, University of Colorado, Denver. (Student Award Winner)

“Is Grace Really Amazing or is it Old Wine in a New Bottle? A Psychometric Examination of Grace's Measurement and Characteristics”

Jordan Moon, Arizona State University (Seed Grant Recipient)

“An Ecological Approach to Motives for Religion”

Although many evolutionary theories of religion focus primarily on a single function of religion (e.g., cooperation), the constraints that religion places on behavior span across several domains. Naturally, these constraints favor some social strategies at the expense of others. Here, I propose that accounting for the strategies individuals adopt (or are able to adopt) is critical in understanding their religious motives. That is, individuals possess an intuitive understanding of whether religion helps or hinders their social strategies. To test this model, I will examine religious motives in one fundamental social domain — finding romantic partners. Given that religious systems overwhelmingly favor committed sexual strategies and that individuals' mate value places constraints on the types of sexual strategies they are able to carry out, I make several predictions about the interplay between mate value, sex and religiosity, as well as how shifts in the mating market may lead to functional shifts in religiosity that facilitate individuals' adaptive mating strategies.

Thomas J. Coleman, Coventry University. (Student Award Winner)

“Theory of Mind and the Psychological Surrogates of Supernatural Belief”

One of the defining features of religion is the belief in supernatural agents. Contemporary theorists of religion have argued that such beliefs are “natural” because they arise from normally functioning social cognitive capacities, especially theory of mind. More specifically, the belief in gods is thought to arise from a hypersensitive or even promiscuous tendency to over-attribute intentionality to things. We see faces in the clouds and hear voices in the wind, and one manifestation of this is that we also see and hear gods.

If so, this raises questions about the possibility of atheism and other forms of religious nonbelief. Do nonbelievers lack properly functioning social cognitive capacities or do they just manifest differently? The overall aim of this project is to investigate theory of mind functioning among nonreligious individuals. Utilizing a mixed methods approach, I will explore how various imaginative engagements feature in their lives, and how they may serve functions similar to belief in the supernatural.