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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 49-53

Investigation of the multiple relationships between early maladaptive schemas and coping styles with anxiety

Department of Psychology, Isfahan Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan, Iran

Date of Web Publication25-Jan-2016

Correspondence Address:
Maryam Zadahmad
Department of Psychology, Isfahan Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2395-2296.174791

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Aim: The main purpose of this study was to investigate the multiple relationships between early maladaptive schemas (EMS) and coping styles with anxiety. Methods: This was a descriptivecorrelational. Therefore, a study sample consisted of 200 students, from the Islamic Azad University of Karaj, were chosen using multistage cluster sampling method. The research instruments were Beck Anxiety Inventory, a short form of young early maladaptive schema, and short form of the coping inventory for stressful situations. Result: The statistical analysis results indicated that there was a significant positive relationship between EMS and emotion-oriented coping with anxiety, and there was a significant negative relationship between task-oriented copings with anxiety. Moreover, also EMS including mistrust-abuse, vulnerability to harm and illness, and social isolation-alienation were able to predict anxiety. Conclusions: With the increase of mistrust-abuse, the vulnerability to harm and illness and social isolation-alienation, anxiety also increases. The emotion-oriented life style would ease stressful events and has the ability to predict anxiety. In contrast, individuals with task-oriented coping style either overcome the problem or minimize it by managing wants, internal and environmental conflicts, with the change and reform and regulating the source of stress. Thus, it can be concluded that changes in these variables would be associated with changes in anxiety.

Keywords: Anxiety, coping styles, early maladaptive schema, parenting stylesAddress for Correspondence:

How to cite this article:
Zadahmad M, Torkan H. Investigation of the multiple relationships between early maladaptive schemas and coping styles with anxiety. Int J Educ Psychol Res 2016;2:49-53

How to cite this URL:
Zadahmad M, Torkan H. Investigation of the multiple relationships between early maladaptive schemas and coping styles with anxiety. Int J Educ Psychol Res [serial online] 2016 [cited 2020 Oct 20];2:49-53. Available from: https://www.ijeprjournal.org/text.asp?2016/2/1/49/174791

  Introduction Top

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that prepares the mind and body to respond to a threat, and all human beings experience it occasionally. It must be noted that anxiety, as a part of human beings' life, exists in all people at a moderate level and at this level it is considered as an adapted response.[1] Anxiety affects the individuals' decision makings and is usually accompanied by nervous behavior, such as pacing and rumination. Anxiety risk factors include family conflict, negative events, and parenting factors.[2] Coping style is one of the factors that have been proposed as predictors of anxiety.[3] In recent years, research on coping that was based on the conceptual framework of Folkman and Lazarus has showed that negative effects of the life's stressing events and troublesome situations could be moderated through appropriate coping skills.[4],[5] Therefore, it is expected that anxiety would be moderated by appropriate coping styles. Coping is considered as one of the core concepts in health psychology and the context of quality of life and is strongly associated with the regulation of emotions throughout the stress period.[6] Among coping styles' models that have been identified, Endler and Parker's three-factor model including the emotion-oriented, task-oriented and avoidance-oriented copings are probably the strongest.[7] Emotion-oriented coping refers to emotional responses, self-preoccupation, expressing emotion and regulating emotions. Emotion-oriented coping strategies are used to handle feelings of distress, rather than the actual problem situation. Task-oriented coping refers to information seeking and problem solving. This strategy relies on using active ways to directly tackle the situation that caused the stress. Avoidance-oriented coping refers to behaviors and responses designed to avoid dealing with the problems, stressful situation, and distracting attention from it.[8] Researches done show that emotion-oriented coping styles are correlated to negative aspects of health such as depression and anxiety [9],[10] compared with the task-oriented coping that is accompanied with positive psycho-social adaptation and greater well-being.[11],[12] Avoidance-oriented coping style has been reported to be correlated with maladaptive health variables.[13],[14] Seyyed Khorasani Sadaghiani and Saghatyzad Sorkhab showed that emotion-oriented and avoidance-oriented coping could play an important role as effective factors in establishing negative effects such as depression, anxiety and stress.[15]

Schemas develop in childhood from an interaction between the innate temperament of the child, the child's experiences with parents, siblings, or peers, and cultural influences. Those schemes that lead to the formation of personality disorders have been called early maladaptive schemas (EMS).[16] The Schema Therapy model proposes that EMS play a key role in the development and maintenance of many psychological disorders. The researchers believe that EMS lead to clinical signs such as anxiety, depression and personality disorders.[17] A considerable amount of research documents the effects of maladaptive schemas on anxiety and depression. Halvorsen and Wang, for example, revealed that depression severity is associated with most domains of these schemas, including disconnection, impaired autonomy, and impaired limits.[18] Ball and Cecero studied the symptoms of anxiety and the EMS in adolescence, and they found a significant correlation.[19] Shahamat in a research found that EMS have significant relationships with anxiety and depression symptoms.[20] Based on the research of Moradyan et al., the schemas of mistrust, vulnerability, and insufficient discipline are the important predictors of anxiety.[21] Calvete et al., in their study found a significant relationship between signs of affective disorders (depression, anxiety, and anger) and EMS.[22] Hawke and Provencher reviewed the literature that relates mood disorders to EMS. They found that depression, despite its association with most schemas, tends to be especially associated with defectiveness or shame as well as insufficient control. Anxiety is also associated with most schemas, but tends to be particularly associated with vulnerability to harm or illness.[23] Calvete et al., showed that EMS of the other-directedness domain play a relevant role in the development and maintenance of social anxiety.[24] Diez et al., showed that social anxiety is associated with several schemas including subjugation, pessimism, emotional inhibition, grandiosity (negative relationship), abandonment, and self-sacrifice.[25] Based on the research of Fathi Ashtiyani the schemas of mistrust, vulnerability, and insufficient self-control/self-discipline are the important predictors of anxiety.[26] Although the identification of these schemas has received much attention in disorders such as depression and personality disorders, the studies focused on anxiety are scarce. Therefore, primary aim of this study was to evaluate the relationships between EMS and coping styles with anxiety. Based on this purpose, the following hypotheses were tested

  1. There is a relationship between EMS and anxiety
  2. There is a relationship between coping styles and anxiety.

  Methods Top

The research method was descriptive and correlational. The statistical population of this study consisted of Karaj University students in 2013–2014 academic year, and the sample included 200 students who were selected by multistage cluster sampling method.

After getting permission from the Research Deputy of University, sampling was done by multistage cluster sampling method. First, three faculties were randomly selected among Karaj University faculties. Similarly, in each faculty, four classes were randomly selected. Based on the research plan, 200 students (girls = 155, boys = 45) were recruited. All participants completed questionnaires including the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), the schema questionnaire-short form (SQ-SF), and short form of the coping inventory for stressful situations (CISS).

The data were analyzed at two descriptive and inferential statistics levels. At descriptive level, the mean and standard deviation were calculated for all variables and in inferential level, using Pearson correlation and step-wise regression, the relationships between predictor variables (EMS, parenting styles, and coping styles) with criterion variable (anxiety) were examined. The calculations were performed using SPSS software (IBM Company in USA).

The BAI, created by Beck et al.,[27] is a 21-item multiple-choice self-report inventory that is used for measuring the severity of an individual's anxiety. The BAI consists of 21 questions. Participants rate the degree to which they have experienced each symptom on a 4-point scale. Scores on the test range from 0 to 63. A total score of 0–7 is interpreted as a “minimal level of anxiety;” 8–15 as “mild anxiety;” 16–25 as “moderate anxiety,” and 26–63 as “severe anxiety.”

Beck et al., found high internal consistency (0.92) and test-retest reliability (0.75), after a 1-week period. In Iran, Kaviani and Mousavi [28] showed that the Persian version of BAI proved a good reliability (r = 0.72, P < 0.001), a very good validity (r = 0.83, P < 0.001), and an excellent internal consistency (alpha = 0.92). Cronbach's alpha for the current sample was. 89.

The SQ-SF [29] is a 75-item self-report questionnaire, designed to assess 15 EMS. Items are answered on a 6-point scale from “totally wrong” about me (1) to totally right about me (6) studies on the SQ-SF have previously shown that the inventory has adequate internal consistency and factorial structure (e.g.[30])

In Iran, Ahi reported the alpha coefficients for subscales ranged between 71% and 90% that demonstrate the internal consistency of this questionnaire.[31] Sadooghi et al., studied the factor analysis of the Young's SQ-SF in a nonclinical Iranian sample, and the research findings confirmed the cross-cultural validity of the questionnaire.[32] Cronbach's alpha for the present sample was 0.94.

Coping was assessed by the shortened version of the CISS-21.[33] The CISS consists of 21-item measuring three coping strategies: emotion-oriented coping, task-oriented coping and avoidance coping. Each scale consists of 7-item, randomly distributed within the form to control for order effects. Respondents were asked to rate each item on a 5-point scale ranging from (1) ''not at all'' to (5) ''very much”. Scale scores were transposed to the same format as the item scores (1–5). The CISS exhibited Cronbach alpha coefficients for task-oriented coping of 0.78 for men and 0.78 for women; emotion-oriented coping alpha coefficients were 0.83 for men and 0.84 for women; and avoidance-oriented coping alpha coefficients were 0.70 for men and 0.80 for women.[33] Cronbach's alpha for the present sample was 0.71.

  Results Top

To response to research questions, data were examined in two steps. The first step was to examine the intercorrelations matrix between dependent and independent variables. The results showed anxiety was significantly and meaningfully associated with all maladaptive schemas and emotion-oriented coping and task-oriented coping. [Table 1] shows the results of the correlational analysis.
Table 1: Means, SD and correlation among anxiety with predicting variables

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Multiple regression analyses was conducted to responses research questions in relation to predicting anxiety. Anxiety was entered as the dependent variable, and maladaptive schemas and coping styles were entered as the independent variables. Summary data are presented in [Table 2].
Table 2: Stepwise multiple regression of anxiety based on maladaptive schemas and coping styles

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The results indicated a significant model fit, for each models, for model 1, F = 53.33, P = 0.001, and that the independent variable (mistrust/abuse) included in the model was able to account for 21.3% of the variance (R 2 = 0.213), for model 2, F = 36.65, P = 0.001, and that the independent variables (mistrust/abuse and vulnerability to harm or illness) included in the model were able to account for 27.2% of the variance (R 2 = 0.272), for model 3, F = 27.88, P = 0.001, and that the independent variables (mistrust/abuse, vulnerability to harm or illness, and social isolation/alienation) included in the model were able to account for 30.0% of the variance (R 2 = 0.300).

  Conclusions Top

The aim of this paper was to study the relationships between the EMS and copping style with anxiety. The result of the statistical analysis shows that there is a significant positive relationship between all the EMS and emotion-oriented coping with anxiety and there was a significant negative relationship between task-oriented copings with anxiety. Furthermore, only the three EMS (mistrust-abuse, vulnerability to harm and illness, and social isolation-alienation) have the ability to predict anxiety. This means, with the increase of mistrust-abuse, the vulnerability to harm and illness and social isolation-alienation, anxiety also increases. This result is consistent with the research results of Ball and Cecero; Calvete et al.; Calvete and Orue; Fathi Ashtiyani; and Shahamat.[19],[20],[24],[26],[34]

In the analysis of the relationship between mistrust-abuse with anxiety, it is noteworthy that individuals with this schema believe others are harmful, annoying, dishonest, and insincere and if they find opportunities, they would certainly exploit them. Such expectations may cause an individual to perceive the events surrounding him in a negative way and, as a result, cause him to be aware of exploitation always and everywhere. In actual fact, it can be noted that, not only cannot this individual trust anyone ambivalently, but also because he sees others behavior as bad and abusive, he mistreats them. This distrust of others will make him feel anxious. On the other hand, due to his maladaptive interactions with others, it will probably cause others to mistreat him as well and this vicious cycle will continue in the form of mistrust-abuse. Basically, such an individual will lose his tranquility and as a result, he will be stricken by anxiety.

Regarding the relationship between vulnerability to harm and illness with anxiety, it can be said that since this schema contains exaggerated and disastrous fear toward any kind of impact and inability to cope with injury or illness, consequently the individual might expect a horrible accident following with anxiety. He might even prevent himself from some common issues of life, e.g., prevent his family from traveling because of his fear of accidents. These events can cause family conflicts and ultimately lead to anxiety. Moreover, individuals who are always worried about the future instead of being useful and doing duties and routines, spend all their energy on these thoughts so they become unaware of their situation. This issue on its own may also lead to falling back in the individual's life and act like a faulty system. Therefore, it would intensify his anxiety. In clarification of the relationship between social isolation-alienation with anxiety, it can be noted that because these individuals feel that they are different from others and do not fit in any communities or groups, as a result they feel self-alienated and become anxious and agitated. Moreover, they are worried that in the future, they will need others and because no one is open to them, they will become anxious. These individuals will gradually lose their self-confidence; they less enter communities or withdrew themselves from the society and family issues. Day by day interacting with others gets worse and eventually loneliness and severe anxiety will be the result of this feeling. Accordingly, it can be concluded that these three schemas can be the predictors of anxiety. In explaining the relationship between the emotion-oriented coping style and anxiety, it can be said that in emotion-oriented coping style the focus is on emotions, hopelessness and emotional reactions, and there is individual's tendency to focus on negative emotions and withdrawal of thinking about solving problems. In fact, the individual instead of coping with the raised problem and solving it might come up with some irrational and disastrous interpretations. This process, may eventually lead to increasing anxiety and concern. The long-term effects of these maladaptive strategies result in loss of his confidence to his abilities for confronting such issues as phobia, anxiety, and physical illnesses. The emotion-oriented life style would ease stressful events and has the ability to predict anxiety. In contrast, individuals with problem-oriented coping style focus on the issue and try to solve it. They directly target stress, prepare design, and planning to purposefully identify the source of external pressure to take an active coping. This kind of coping is an effort that relies on action and intra-personal matters. Finally, they may either overcome the problem or minimize it by managing wants, internal and environmental conflicts, with the change and reform and regulating the source of stress. Individuals, who use the coping style, are more satisfied with the ways of controlling stressful events, in addition in the shade of mind peace due to confronting problems he would be less anxious. Therefore, it can be noted that emotion-oriented coping style is inefficient and will cause anxiety, on the other hand problem-oriented copying style is significant and efficient to deal with stresses and eventually anxiety. In conclusion, the results of this study showed that EMSs and copping styles are predictive of anxiety and changes in these variables would be associated with changes in anxiety.

Limitation and suggestion

Several limitations of the current study should be noted. First, the results of this study were limited by the self-report nature of the instruments. Second, a university sample was used in the current study, therefore generalize the results to a larger population should be done with caution. Third, as the study used correlation analysis on data collected concurrently, it is not possible to infer any causal relationship between variables.

Given these limitations, future studies may wish to examine from a developmental-longitudinal perspective, the interplay between a wider range of risk factors such as self-esteem, mood and personality traits, and anxiety.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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