Home List of Titles The efficacy of early childhood memories as indicators of current maladaptive schemas and psychological health
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- The efficacy of early childhood memories as indicators of current maladaptive schemas and psychological health
- Theiler, Stephen S.
- This thesis investigates theoretical propositions of Beck (1996), Epstein (1987), and Young (1999) that suggest maladaptive schemas operating as deep unconscious cognitions are intrinsically linked to the psychological health and wellbeing of the individual. To date, research on psychological health has mainly used self-report measures that focus on conscious processes. The primary aim of this thesis was to explore particular maladaptive schemas that purportedly operate unconsciously and to examine their relationship with self-reported psychological dysfunction. Bruhn's (1990a) Cognitive Perceptual Theory of early childhood memories was employed as a vehicle to access schemas deemed outside of conscious awareness. These unconscious schemas were investigated in conjunction with current self-reported maladaptive schemas in Study 1 and psychological symptoms in Study 2. The participants in Study 1 comprised 249 undergraduate first year psychology students. There were 198 women and 50 men with a mean age of 22 years who were asked to write down four early childhood memories. The first two memories were spontaneous in order to reveal the most pressing underlying schemas. The next two early memories requested were relating to mother and to father, to gain schema information about relationship dynamics. The participants then filled out the short-form of Young's (1998) Schema Questionnaire (YSQ-S). Independent raters coded the memories for Young's (1994) Early Maladaptive Schemas, and Last and Bruhn's (1992) Object Relations categories of 'Perceptions of Others', 'Perceptions of the Self', 'Perception of Environment', and 'Degree of Interpersonal Contact', and 'Individual Distinctiveness'. Polyserial correlations indicated that there were significant relationships between maladaptive schemas represented in early memories and self-reported maladaptive schemas. However, the lack of maladaptive schemas in memories being linked to the same maladaptive schemas that were being self-reported, suggested that the schemas represented in memories were tapping into a different source of information than conscious self-reports. A Discriminant Function Analysis (DFA) was performed with the sample divided into three groups (low, medium and high YSQ-S scorers). The results showed that maladaptive schemas identified in early memories that corresponded to Young's (1990) 'Disconnection and Rejection' domain were significant predictors of people in the group with high levels of self-reported psychological symptoms (Derogatis, 1993). Fifty percent of people (which is greater than the chance rate of 33 percent) were correctly predicted as belonging to the high group on the basis of representations of schemas from this domain. In another DFA analysis that used individual schemas instead of domains, 'Abandonment' and 'Insufficient Self-Control', together with 'Perceiving the Environment to be safe' and 'Negative Affect', were found to be significant predictors that correctly allocated 58 percent of people into the high GSI group. Further analysis using only the low and high groups resulted in 83 percent of people in the high group being correctly identified on the basis of representations of 'Abandonment', 'Insufficient Self-Control' and 'Perceiving the Environment to be safe'. These results endorse the relevance of the relationships among an underlying sense of abandonment and insufficient self-control with high levels of psychological symptoms of distress. Taken together, the findings from both studies support the theoretical proposition that schemas residing outside of conscious awareness can have a pervasive link with psychological health and wellbeing. A particularly important discovery was that a relatively small number of schemas centered around perceptions of 'Disconnection and Rejection' from others, that were operating unconsciously, were significantly linked to people in both studies who reported a wide range of psychological difficulties. It was concluded that investigating object relations, affect, and Young's (1990) maladaptive schemas in early memories, is an efficient and possibly essential method of gaining information that may otherwise not be obtained from self-report measures exclusively. Consequently, in therapy, maladaptive schemas associated with disconnection and rejection represented in clients' early childhood memories can be viewed as very important unconscious schemas to examine. This is especially necessary given that these schemas may not be consciously accessed or easily articulated by clients, and yet seem to be intrinsically linked to a range of conscious psychological difficulties.
- Publication type
- Thesis (PhD)
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Life and Social Sciences
- Publication year
- Cognitive psychology; Early memories; Psychology; Recollection
- Australasian Digital Theses collection
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2005 Stephen S. Theiler.
- Thesis Supervisor
- [Glen Bates]
- Thesis Note
- [Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Swinburne University of Technology, 2005.]
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