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Childhood Experiences and Adult Relationships: How Early Maladaptive Schemas Shape Your Love Life

Early maladaptive schemas (EMS) are negative beliefs about oneself and relationships that start in childhood and continue to cause problems in adulthood.

In schema therapy, this concept is connected to attachment theory's idea of internal working models, which are both positive and negative beliefs formed in early experiences about oneself and others.

Attachment theory, initially emphasizing emotional outcomes, later expanded to include cognitive elements like internal working models and scripts.

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Some of the key points found are as follows:

1. Insecure Attachment and Overall Schemas: Insecure attachment styles (anxious, avoidant, fearful) were positively associated with overall early maladaptive schemas.

This suggests that individuals with insecure attachment tend to harbor more negative beliefs about themselves and relationships.

2. Schema Domains Affected: The positive associations extended across all schema domains, including disconnection/rejection, impaired autonomy, impaired limits, other-directedness, and overvigilance/inhibition.

This indicates a broad impact of insecure attachment on various aspects of early maladaptive schemas.

3. Negative Association with Secure Attachment: Secure attachment demonstrated a negative association with early maladaptive schemas.

This implies that individuals with secure attachment tend to possess fewer negative beliefs about themselves and relationships.

4. Differential Impact of Anxious and Avoidant Attachment: Anxious attachment had larger associations than avoidant attachment in specific domains, such as disconnection/rejection and other-directedness.

Additionally, anxious attachment showed stronger associations with schemas related to abandonment, subjugation, and self-sacrifice.

5. Consistent Patterns Across Schemas: Across various schemas, including emotional deprivation and social isolation, all insecure attachment styles consistently had larger associations than secure attachment.

This suggests a pervasive influence of insecure attachment on specific maladaptive beliefs.

This article originally appeared in the Psych email newsletter.