Social isolation schema responds to positive social experiences: longitudinal evidence from vulnerable populations

Cruwys, Tegan, Dingle, Genevieve A., Hornsey, Matthew J., Jetten, Jolanda, Oei, Tian P.S., and Walter, Zoe C. (2014) Social isolation schema responds to positive social experiences: longitudinal evidence from vulnerable populations. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 53 (3). pp. 265-280.

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Objectives: Maladaptive schemas are stable cognitive working models of the world, learnt early in life, that interfere with effective functioning and underlie chronic mental illness. A major challenge for cognitive therapy has been how to modify schemas when they are so enduring and stable. We propose that because maladaptive schemas are formed through social experiences (typically abusive or neglectful ones), they might best be corrected through positive social experiences that directly challenge the schema.

Design: Two longitudinal studies were conducted, one with patients undergoing group cognitive-behavioural therapy (N = 92) and one with homeless individuals residing in temporary accommodation (N = 76).

Method: In each study, social isolation schema was measured at Time 1 and again at Time 2 following a group-based social experience (group psychotherapy or temporary residence at a community organization). A positive experience of group life was operationalized as social identification with the therapy group in Study 1 or the community organization in Study 2.

Results: In both studies, social identification led to a significant reduction in social isolation schema. Study 2 indicated that these effects were fully mediated by the formation of ties to new social groups, such that social identification scaffolded the development of new group memberships, which in turn decreased the endorsement of maladaptive schema.

Conclusions: Social identification facilitates the correction of socially situated schema such as social isolation.

Item ID: 35996
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2044-8260
Keywords: social identity; early maladaptive schemas; cognitive theory; mental health; social isolation
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC (LP110200437)
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2015 23:03
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920209 Mental Health Services @ 100%
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