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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The relationship between interpersonal problems and negative childhood experiences During, Sara May


The purpose of this investigation was to examine the relationship between adult interpersonal functioning of women, currently in therapy wherein they were addressing unresolved issues about their childhood maltreatment, and childhood experiences referring to a developmental psychopathology framework. One hundred and twenty women (30 sexual abuse, 30 physical abuse, 30 family disruption, and 30 control) were individually presented with a series of audiotapes of three interpersonal situations (conflictual, neutral, dating), and asked to record their self-report of physiological response, self- and other-perceptions and coping responses. Physiological indices (heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure) were also recorded, as well as self-report of childhood coping strategies. The data were examined as to whether abuse survivors in therapy addressing their childhood experiences have more interpersonal problems than non-clinical control subjects or than individuals having other types of traumatic backgrounds and whether any noted interpersonal difficulties are specific to the type of abuse, or general in nature. Results indicated that abusive experiences are related to greater dysfunction in regards to self- and other-perceptions than exposure to disruptive/chaotic family environments alone. However, the differences appear to be variable-specific and few differences were obtained on physiological and coping variables. Some specific problems in adult interpersonal functioning were evidenced between the sexual and physical abuse groups. Specifically, in comparison to the physical abuse survivors, sexual abuse survivors reported greater use of different, and perhaps less adaptive, coping strategies in neutral situations. No other dependent variables significantly differed between the two groups. The results were discussed in terms of theoretical and empirical issues related to abuse-specific outcomes, the specific methodology employed in this study, and directions for future research.

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