Date of Award

12-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Leonard Handler

Committee Members

Robert Wahler, Priscilla Blanton, John Lounsbury

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to investigate object relational and interpersonal functioning among self-injuring and non-injuring college students. It was hypothesized that self-injury would be associated with more pathological object relational functioning as measured by the Mutuality of Autonomy (MOA) and Social Cognition and Object Relation Scale (SCORS). Additionally, it was hypothesized that self-injurers would evidence significantly more global interpersonal distress on the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems-32 (IIP-32), as well as show elevations in four of the subscales of the IIP-32; self-sacrifice, non-assertiveness, over-accommodation, and interpersonal neediness. Lastly, a number of publications suggest that childhood abuse is a significant risk factor for later developing self-injurious behaviors. This study hypothesized that object relational functioning as measured by the SCORS and MOA would account for additional variance in self-injury even after abuse is taken into account. A survey of 413 college undergraduates indicated that approximately 18.6% of the sample had self-injured at least once, and rates of self-injury were not significantly different across gender. All 77 of the individuals with a history of self-injury and 77 randomly selected individuals with no history of self-injury were re-contacted and invited to participate in further research. In total, 44 self-injuring and 34 non-injuring individuals took part in the second phase of research. Each of the 78 participants completed the IIP-32, SCORS and the MOA. Findings indicate that individuals with a history of self-injury evidenced significantly more pathological scores on the MOA than individuals with no such history. Results only partially supported the hypothesis that self-injury would be related to significantly more pathological scores on the SCORS, with only one subscale of the SCORS being significantly related to self-injury. Participants with a history of self-injury also endorsed more interpersonal distress on the IIP-32 than did non-injuring participants. In addition, self-injurers were more likely to endorse a pattern of interpersonal functioning characterized by self-sacrifice, interpersonal neediness, non-assertiveness and overaccommodation than were individuals with no history of self-injury. Results of a hierarchical regression did not support the final hypothesis.

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