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Emotional Abuse as a Predictor of Early Maladaptive Schemas in Adolescents: Contributions to the Development of Depressive and Social Anxiety Symptoms

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 38 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2014 Pages: 735-746
E. Calvete
Date Published
April 2014
12 pages
Based on a study of 1,052 adolescents (ages 13-17) attending school in Bizkaia, Spain, this study examined whether emotional abuse perpetrated by parents and peers, both alone and interactively with temperament, predicts the worsening of early maladaptive schemas (EMSs), as well as whether EMSs in turn predicts an increase in depressive and social anxiety symptoms in adolescents.
Findings indicate that the emotional abuse perpetrated by peers, but not the emotional abuse perpetrated by parents, predicts the worsening of the schemas. The predictive association between bullying victimization and schemas is important, because it suggests that peer victimization experienced in adolescence is crucial to the development of dysfunctional schemas. As a consequence of being bullied, adolescents may develop schemas that involve thoughts and feeling of being rejected and abused by others, feelings of being defective, a sense of vulnerability and failure, and the need to satisfy the desires of others in an attempt to gain acceptance and eventually to avoid bullying. Although emotional abuse by parents did not predict the worsening of EMSs, it was directly associated with depressive symptoms, both concurrently and prospectively. The influence of parental emotional abuse on EMSs could have occurred early in childhood, so that no additional change in EMSs was observed during the period of the study. Contrary to expectations, there was no significant interaction between temperament dimensions and emotional abuse perpetrated by parents and peers in the prediction of EMSs and/or symptoms of depression and social anxiety. Regarding whether the influence of emotional abuse experiences and temperament in depression and social anxiety is mediated by EMSs, the result confirmed the mediational hypothesis for both emotional bullying victimization and neuroticism. Emotional abuse and temperament seem to be independent of each other, although future research should examine whether temperament interacts with other adversities in the genesis of emotional and cognitive schemas. 2 tables, 2 figures, and 73 references