Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 78 Issue 4 (December 2005), Pages 331-569

Early maladaptive schemas and adult attachment in a UK clinical population (pages 549-564)

Objectives. Both insecure attachment style and early maladaptive schemas have been associated with mental health difficulties. This study aimed to investigate how schemas relate to attachment style classification in mental health service users. A further aim was to investigate the nature of the relationship between psychological distress, common psychological difficulties, and attachment style.

Method. Participants were 72 people in contact with mental health services who completed the short form of Young's schema questionnaire, a measure identifying their attachment style (experience of close relationships), and the clinical outcomes in routine evaluation (CORE; Evans et al., 1998) outcome measure.

Results. Overall, 81% of the participants had an insecure attachment style. The fearful group were the most distressed across several domains of the CORE, followed by the preoccupied group. Schemas differed significantly according to attachment style grouping, with the fearful group possessing the greatest degree of maladaptive schemas, followed by the preoccupied group. Discriminant function analysis identified differing patterns of schemas associated with attachment style.

Conclusions. The results supported the relevance of both attachment style and maladaptive schemas to individuals with mental health difficulties. Importantly, several aspects of the individuals' symptoms and difficulties and their schemas were meaningfully related to their adult attachment style. Limitations included the small number of dismissing individuals identified, the problems of self‐report in this area, and the absence of information about the quality of participants' current relationships.

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