Academic journal article The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences

The Blatt and the Cloninger Models of Personality and Their Relationship with Psychopathology

Academic journal article The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences

The Blatt and the Cloninger Models of Personality and Their Relationship with Psychopathology

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper presents in brief the Blatt and the Cloninger theories of personality and their relationship to depression and to psychopathology. Each of the theories is described, the theoretical foundations of the theory are presented, the theory's view on personality stability, on the relationship between personality and psychopathology, the theory's efficacy at predicting depression from personality measures, the theory's explanation for sex differences in depression, the measures derived from the theories, and theory productivity. The paper concludes with an analysis of commonalities of, and points of disagreement between the two theories.

The choice to present and juxtapose Blatt and Cloninger arises from a deep appreciation of both theories, both new and integrative in their approaches. The two theories arose in different contexts, and in different disciplines. The Blatt theory is known mainly to psychoanalysts, clinical psychologists, and research psychologists with interests in depression and in development. The Cloninger theory is known mostly to psychiatrists, and to psychologists and researchers who are interested in the interface between biology and behavior. There is little interaction between these different theoretical approaches; and yet the theories are different enough to provide interesting contrasts and surprising commonalities. The Blatt theory originated before the Cloninger theory, but the two are currently used and studied without an opportunity for argument between the two.

Both Sidney Blatt and Robert Cloninger are prolific researchers and writers, and have given rise to a wealth of work by others, who have examined their ideas, as well as the applications and implications of their theories. Both are in the full swing of their scientific careers. This short paper does not attempt to give a complete and comprehensive presentation of their work. Rather, it should be viewed as an attempt to summarize, analyze and compare some of the current, central features of both corpuses of work, which are relevant to the issue of the relationship between personality and psychopathology. This discussion relies mostly on Blatt's book, Experiences of Depression (2004; 1), and on Cloninger's book, Feeling Good (2004; 2).

The Blatt Model of Personality and Depression

Model description

The Blatt model of personality posits that individuals develop along two dimensions: that of interpersonal relationships and that of identity and self definition. The dimension of interpersonal relationships begins with the infant's relationship with his mother and extends over the whole lifespan, though the internal representation of the mother forged in infancy wields a central and enduring influence on

future relationships and their representations. The self-enhancing aspect of the interpersonal dimension is intimacy and connection, and the downside is a sense of loneliness, helplessness and extreme neediness which is difficult for others to alleviate. The second dimension is self-definition. It is very active in the second year of life, and is greatly affected by the emergence of the superego. Like the interpersonal dimension, it is also a lifespan developmental vector. The self-enhancing aspect of the self dimension is a sense of identity, of purpose and of achievement. The downside is extreme self-criticism. The ascendancy of one of the two dimensions in any individual's life at a point in time may depend on internal and on external events. The dimensions are not part of an individual's consciousness but have tremendous power over the individual's feelings, cognitions, actions and life.

For individuals whose development is more invested in the interpersonal dimension, well being is associated with issues of relatedness and dependency. They may be particularly vulnerable to subjective experiences of loss and separation. For individuals who are particularly invested in the self dimension, well being is associated with a sense of achievement, approval and freedom from inferiority and guilt. …

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