Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Leonard Handler

Committee Members

Robert Wahler, Laurence James, Richard Saudargas


The purpose of this study was to document an empirical link between attachment theory and object relations by using projective measures, while further defining John Bowlby’s concept of the internal working model. The internal working model is a set of unconscious cognitive and emotional guidelines for how an individual understands interpersonal interactions, and influences behavioral and emotional responses (Bowlby, 1973, 1988). The internal working model as described in Bowlby’s attachment theory, bears striking resemblance to object relations theories of internalized unconscious representations. For example, Donald Winnicott stressed the importance of early interactions with the primary caregiver as shaping the child’s internal mental and emotional world through processes of internalizing representations of the parental figure as a psychological object (Winnicott, 1931). 100 Undergraduates were administered the Adult Attachment Projective (George, West, and Pettem, 1999) and Thematic Apperception Test, measured by Drew Westen’s Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale (Westen, 1995). Results show that individuals classified as secure have significantly higher average scores on the object relations dimensions of Complexity of Representation of People, Affective Quality of Experiences, Emotional Investment in Relationships, Understanding of Social Causality, Experience and Management of Aggressive Impulses, Self-Esteem, and Identity and Coherence of Self than insecure individuals. These findings suggest that objects relations can be used to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the internal working model underlying adult attachment status.

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Psychology Commons