Seeking Security in the New Age: On Attachment and Emotional Compensation

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Abstract

The purpose of the present cross-sectional questionnaire study was to construct a comprehensive and reliable scale to assess new age orientation as a continuous individual difference variable. Given large increases in new age orientation in Sweden in recent years, an additional purpose was to test our emotional compensation hypothesis by studying connections of retrospective parental and adult romantic attachment in relation to new age orientation, emotionally-based religiosity, and socialization-based religiosity, as well as to study links between attachment and several aspects of spiritual change. The study group included 193 participants from upper secondary school classes, Christian youth organizations, and new age establishments in Stockholm, Sweden. The new age orientation scale was shown to be unidimensional according to an exploratory factor analysis, and to possess adequate reliability and construct validity. In line with the emotional compensation predictions, new age orientation was directly linked to attachment insecurity and emotionally-based religiosity and inversely related to socialization-based religiosity. Attachment insecurity was also linked to the experience of spiritual changes, whereas most findings pertaining to characteristics of spiritual change did not support predictions. In general, unlike perceived attachment to parents, adult romantic attachment did not display the predicted pattern of results. It was concluded that attachment theory may make an important contribution by highlighting predisposing factors for new age orientation, as representing one aspect of the emotional compensation profile, but that several methodological improvements are necessary in future studies.

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