OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

Is the Relationship between Early Maladaptive Schemas and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Indirect?


Cognitive models of psychopathology have received attention in the clinical research literature and have led to the proliferation of cognitive therapies for numerous psychological disorders. One such model, the Schema Model (EMS; Young, 1998), proposes that negative early developmental experiences (e.g., dysfunctional parenting, abuse, trauma) leads to the development of Early Maladaptive Schemas (EMS) which serve as a biased information processing mechanism through which future life experiences are viewed negatively. These EMS have been shown to be associated with vulnerability to various mental disorders (Young, et. al, 2004). Although prior research has demonstrated an association between EMS and psychological trauma (Karatzias, et al., 2016), there is little research on the relationship between EMS and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD; Karatzias et al., 2016). The current study examined the relationship between EMS and PTSD in a sample of physical and sexual assault survivors. Specifically, we proposed a model in which the relationship between EMS and PTSD is indirect and mediated by psychological flexibility (acceptance, commitment and cognitive defusion). Participants consisted of undergraduate students with a history of physical or sexual assault. Results revealed that EMS and PTSD symptoms are related and moreover results of parallel mediation analyses using PROCESS (Hayes, 2008) revealed that EMS--PTSD relationship was mediated by psychological inflexibility. These results suggest that EMS (cognitive vulnerability) may be a precursor to coping with painful experience through experiential avoidance, inflexibility, and cognitive fusion with negative thoughts rendering individuals vulnerable to PTSD. Implications for future research and psychotherapeutic interventions will be discussed.

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