Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

The Relationship between Interpersonal Schemas and Personality Characteristics

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

The Relationship between Interpersonal Schemas and Personality Characteristics

Article excerpt

The present study was designed to examine the relationship between the interpersonal schemas (as measured by the Interpersonal Schema Questionnaire) and personality characteristics (as measured by the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory) within the framework of Safran's (1990) cognitive-interpersonal approach. Ninety-two patients (40 men, 52 women) participated in this study. Their mean age was 35.09 years. The results generally demonstrated that expected responses from significant others in submissive situations were negatively correlated with histrionic personality characteristics. Expected responses from significant others in friendly situations were negatively correlated with schizotypal personality characteristics. Expected responses from significant others in friendly situations were positively correlated with antisocial personality characteristics.

As cognitive behavioral therapy continues to represent a growing trend in treatment and is thoroughly supported as an especially effective treatment for depression and anxiety, it becomes clear that the useful application of this type of treatment to other disorders must be further articulated. Congruent with this, a number of cognitive theorists have emphasized the need for expansion of the theoretical and conceptual framework of cognitive therapy (Lockwood, 1992; Lockwood & Young, 1992; Safran, 1990; Safran & McMain, 1992; Safran & Segal, 1990). They have pointed out that traditional cognitive therapists have failed to develop a systematic theory of human development and personality organization which would focus on cognitive and behavioral redundancies, and would provide specific treatment strategies when these redundancies are maladaptive. Additionally, this challenge intensified the need for identification and adequate assessment of core cognitive structures (Arnkoff, 1980; Guidano & Liotti, 1983; Mahoney, 1982; Meichenbaum & Gilmore, 1984; Safran, Vallis, Segal, & Shaw, 1986). Accordingly, they have stressed the need to integrate cognitive theory with object relations or attachment theory.

An important example of this trend is Safran's (1990) conceptualization of the interpersonal schema, which incorporates an understanding of cognitive structures within an interpersonal context. This conceptualization emphasizes that the exact representation of the self-schema is obtained when the role of others, within their reciprocal relationship, is addressed. The notion of interpersonal schema has its roots in Markus's (1977) self-schema definitions, Bowlby's (1969,1973) internal working models and Stern's (1985) Representations of Interactions that have been Generalized (RIGs). Interpersonal schemas cohere around the idea that human beings are intrinsically designed to seek attachment to others and will develop expectations regarding interpersonal interaction based on interpersonal experience (Hill & Safran, 1994). Thus, these constructs are defined as generalized representations of self-other relationships or programs for maintaining relatedness (Safran, 1990; Safran & Segal, 1990).

The interpersonal schema is initially abstracted on the basis of interactions with attachment figures, permitting the individual to predict interactions in a way that increases the probability of maintaining relatedness with these figures. In theory, an interpersonal schema contains information of the form: "if I do x, others do y." (Hill & Safran, 1994, p. 367)

Different from an exclusively cognitive focus that emphasizes the way in which people actively construe their environment, the cognitive-interpersonal approach puts forth that people both construe and construct their environments. Thus, Safran (1990) has proposed that interpersonal schemas maintain themselves using the principle of complementarity. This principle states that specific, interpersonal behaviors tend, predictably, to pull for other specific, interpersonal behaviors (Kiesler, 1983). …

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