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: 265-280. doi:10.1111/bjc.12042

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Author Cruwys, Tegan
Dingle, Genevieve A.
Hornsey, Matthew J.
Jetten, Jolanda
Oei, Tian P. S.
Walter, Zoe C.
Title Social isolation schema responds to positive social experiences: longitudinal evidence from vulnerable populations
Journal name British Journal of Clinical Psychology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0144-6657
2044-8260
Publication date 2014-01-13
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/bjc.12042
Open Access Status File (Author Post-print)
Volume 53
Issue 3
Start page 265
End page 280
Total pages 16
Place of publication Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Publisher John Wiley & Sons
Language eng
Abstract 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.
Formatted abstract
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.

Practitioner points
• Maladaptive schemas are modifiable in short-term therapy or even in community settings.
• The experience of being accepted and belonging to a social group can challenge a person's deep-seated belief that they are socially isolated.
• Positive social experiences may act as scaffolding to help socially isolated individuals build new social group memberships.
• Less positively, social isolation schema can also act as a feedback loop, preventing people from identifying with groups, resulting in a negative social experience that may further embed the schema.
• Further research is needed to determine how clinicians might facilitate social identification.
Keyword Social Identity
Early maladaptive schemas
Cognitive theory
Mental health
Social isolation
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article first published online: 13 JAN 2014

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
 
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Created: Thu, 12 Dec 2013, 02:30:52 EST by Tegan Cruwys on behalf of School of Psychology