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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Moderating Effect of Negative Childhood Experiences on the Development of Differentiation of Self
by Swanberg-Hjelm, Julie Christina, Ph.D., Northcentral University, 2020, 209; 27742227
Abstract (Summary)

Humans experience the dichotomous desires of wanting to form close emotional connections with other people and wanting to develop a distinct sense of self. Bowen theory (BT) postulates a person utilizes differentiation of self (DoS) to manage the anxieties surrounding this ‘push-pull’ tension. DoS is the ability to emotionally regulate oneself during stressful times while continuing to remain connected to important people. When DoS increases so does the likelihood of experiencing better physical health, emotional health, and having a satisfying interpersonal relationship. The foundational structure of DoS begins developing in the family nuclear emotional process (NFP). The NFP is the emotional unit created by two people in a committed relationship and is the family’s guiding method of managing the push-pull tension.

Unfortunately, a child does not only learn about DoS within the NFP; children also encounter negative childhood experiences (NCE). An NCE occurs when a child suffers personal abuse (body, mind, and/or sexual) and family dysfunction (parental substance abuse, emotional illness, inter-partner aggression, and illegal anti-social conduct). Adults who experienced one or more NCEs are more likely to have decreased physical health, emotional health, and more interpersonal difficulties. It was unknown if the NCEs experienced during childhood altered the relationship between the NFP and the DoS level as an adult.

A quantitative, online survey collected data from 135 participants who were residents of the United States, at least 25 years old, and not enrolled in a bachelor’s program. The survey consisted of both Likert style and ‘yes or no’ questions. The research questions investigated the moderating effects NCE had upon the relationship between the NFP and the level of DoS as an adult. NCE was found to have a moderating effect on the DoS when the NFP was low or average but did not moderate when the NFP was high. Limitations included the retrospective nature of two measurements and the lack of collaboration with the participants. Recommendations for practice included focusing on the parent’s level of DoS when a child misbehaves at home or school. Future recommendations included replication of the study and investigating other variables which may moderate the development of DoS.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Banks, Elizabeth
Commitee: Knerr, Michael, White, Mark
School: Northcentral University
Department: School of Marriage and Family Sciences
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 81/9(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Counseling Psychology, Behavioral psychology, Developmental psychology
Keywords: Adverse childhood experiences, Anxiety, Bowen theory, Differentiation of self, Family systems theory, Marriage and family therapy
Publication Number: 27742227
ISBN: 9781658467322
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