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The associations between adult attachment styles and schema domains: A facet analysis

by Gery Karantzas, Pam Pilkington & Rita Younan

General Abstract:

Research into adult attachment has found that the two primary dimensions that underlie attachment styles – namely – attachment anxiety and avoidance demonstrate positive associations with schema domains. However, research into adult attachment has also identified that these broad dimensions are associated with fine-grained “attachment facets” that have important clinical utility in working with insecurely attached clients. These facets tap into related, but distinct characteristics of attachment anxiety and avoidance that allow Schema Therapists to engage in more targeted clinical work with clients. These five facets include “discomfort with closeness”, “relationships as secondary”, “preoccupation with relationships”, “need for approval”, and “confidence”. Despite the clinical utility of these attachment facets, no research has investigated the associations between these attachment facets and schema domains. We report on the first facet analysis of adult attachment and their associations with schema domains. A sample of 593 adults recruited from the community completed an anonymous online survey that included the Young Schema Questionnaire (YSQ-S3) and the Attachment Style Questionnaire- Short Form (ASQ-SF). A series of multiple regression analyses were conducted. Results revealed that the facets explained between 43%-60% of the variance across the five schema domains. All five attachment facets were significantly associated with all five schema domains with the exception of confidence and discomfort with closeness and the schema domain of impaired autonomy/competence. Furthermore, there was evidence of discrimination between attachment facets and their associations with schema domains. Specifically, preoccupation with relationships was found to have the largest associations with other directness and impaired limits. Furthermore, relationships as secondary was found to be a more consistent predictor of schema domains over discomfort with closeness, especially in the domains of disconnection/rejection, impaired autonomy/competence and impaired limits. The findings have important theoretical and clinical implications for working with insecurely attached clients from a Schema Therapy Model perspective.

Level of Experience Required for Participants: 


About the Presenters:

Gery Karantzas 

Gery Karantzas is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology and Director of the Science of Adult Relationships (SoAR) Laboratory at Deakin University. He is one of Australia’s foremost experts in adult attachment and is regarded as one of the nation’s leading relationship scientists. Gery has delivered workshops, seminars and lectures in relationship science to the general public, graduate and undergraduate students, and professionals for over a decade. He has edited and authored over 70 publications including the Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Couples and Family Relationships (co-edited with Pat Noller) and Adult Attachment: A Concise Introduction to Theory and Research (co-authored with Omri Gillath and R. Chris Fraley). Gery has received training and collaborated with some of the world’s leading experts and pioneers in adult attachment including: Professor Phillip Shaver (University of California, Davis), Professor Jeffry Simpson (University of Minnesota), and Professor Pat Noller and Associate Professor Judith Feeney (University of Queensland). His research activities into adult attachment and relationships more generally have been funded by grants from the Australian Research Council, the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, the National Medical Health and Research Council and beyondblue, totalling over $5 million. Gery writes for the Conversation and Psychology Today, and his articles have received over 1.5 million reads and regularly contacted by the media to discuss all matters on relationships. He is also the founder of relationshipscienceonline.com, a website that curates and delivers the science of relationships to target the needs of relationship counsellors and the general public.

Dr. Pam Pilkington 

Dr. Pam Pilkington is an Advanced Schema Therapist (Individual) and Clinical Psychologist working in private practice in Melbourne, Australia since the completion of her PhD in 2016. In addition to clinical work, Pam enjoys engaging in research, and teaching postgraduate psychology students at the Australian Catholic University. For the past 10 years, Pam has contributed to research on parenting, childhood experiences, and the prevention and treatment of mental illness. Since late 2020, Pam has contributed to 10 journal articles relating to schema therapy and is interested in advancing the evidence base supporting our clinical work.

Rita Younan 

Rita is the director and founder of the Schema Therapy Institute Australia. Rita is a clinical psychologist and Advanced Schema Therapist in both individual and group Schema Therapy. Rita is a member of the Executive Board for the International Society of Schema Therapy and holds the position of Training Co-ordinator. Rita provides consultation in implementing both individual and group Schema Therapy in organisations including Forensic Settings. She has recently trained in David Bernstein's Safe Path in applying Schema Therapy to teams who work from a Schema Therapy framework. Rita has a strong interest in attachment, interpersonal neurobiology and trauma and she is currently involved in a number of research projects looking into the effectiveness of schema therapy across various settings.

Why Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy has been extensively researched to effectively treat a wide variety of typically treatment resistant conditions, including Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Read our summary of the latest research comparing the dramatic results of schema therapy compared to other standard models of psychotherapy.

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