Parental representations and psychological pain: An exploratory study

Ana Sofia Fragata, Rui C. Campos, Cristina Baleizão


The aim of this exploratory study is to test, in community adults, the relationship between of parental representations and psychological pain. The final sample consisted of 164 participants, aged between 18 and 65 years, who have responded to the Psychache Scale and the o Inventory for Assessing Memories of Parental Rearing Behaviour (EMBU) and gave a free description of each parental figure. These descriptions were coded using the Differentiation-Relatedness (D-R) Scale. Results demonstrate that with the exception of the DR level for description of the mother, the remaining five variables DR level for the description of the father, father rejection, mother rejection, father overprotection and mother overprotection correlate significantly with the psychological pain variable. A forward multiple regression analysis showed that the variables DR level for the description of the father, father rejection, and mother overprotection made a significant contribution to the prediction of psychological pain, although explaining a low percentage of variance of psychological pain. This model was corroborated by Structural Equation Modeling. The findings are discussed within the framework of psychoanalytic theory and Rohner's acceptance-rejection perspective.


Parental representations, Psychological pain, Rejection, Overprotection.


Ainsworth, M. D. S., & Bell, S. M. (1969). Some contemporary patterns in the feeding situation. In A. Ambrose (Ed.), Stimulation in early infancy (pp. 133-170). London: Academic Press.

Beebe, B., & Lachmann, F. M. (2002). Infant research and adult treatment: Co-constructing interactions. New York: The analytic Press.

Behrends, R. S., & Blatt, S. J. (1985). Internalization and psychological development throughout the life cycle. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 40, 11-39.

Bers, S. A., Besser, A., Harpaz-Rotem, I., & Blatt, S. J. (2013). An empirical exploration of the dynamics of anorexia nervosa: Representations of self, mother, and father. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 30, 188-209.

Blatt, S. J. (1974). Levels of object representation in anaclitic and introjective depression. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 29, 107-157.

Blatt, S. J. (1995). The destructiveness of perfectionism: Implications for the treatment of depression. American Psychologist, 50, 1003-1020.

Blatt, S. J. (2004). Experiences of depression: Theoretical, clinical, and research perspectives. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Blatt, S. J. (2008). Polarities of experience: Relatedness and self-definition in personality development, psychopathology, and the therapeutic process. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Blatt, S. J., & Auerbach, J. S. (2001). Mental representation, severe psychopathology, and the therapeutic process. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 49, 113-159.

Blatt, S. J., Chevron, E. S., Quinlan, D. M., Schaffer, C. E., & Wein, S. (1988). The assessment of qualitative and structural dimensions of object representations (rev. ed., Unpublished research manual). New Haven: Yale University.

Blatt, S. J., & Lerner, H. (1983). The psychological assessment of object representation. Journal of Personality Assessment, 47, 7-28.

Bornstein, M. H. (2006). Parenting science and practice. In K. A. Renninger & I. E. Sigel (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Child psychology in practice (pp. 893-949). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136-162). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Campos, R. C. (2012). ‘Porque nunca me deixaste existir a mim, precisarei para sempre de ti’: Sobrevoando o significado da dependência ao longo do espectro psicopatológico. Revista Portuguesa de Psicanálise e Psicoterapia Psicanalítica, 3, 317-338.

Campos, R., & Holden, R. (2015). Testing models relating rejection, depression, interpersonal needs, and psychache to suicide risk in nonclinical individuals. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 71, 994-1003.

Canavarro, M. (1996). A avaliação das práticas educativas através do EMBU: Estudos psicométricos. Psychologica, 16, 5-18.

Canavarro, M. (1999). Relações afectivas e saúde mental. Coimbra: Quarteto Editora.

Diamond, D., Blatt, S. J., Stayner, D., & Kaslow, N. (1991). Selfother differentiation of object representations (unpublished research manual). New Haven: Yale University.

Diamond, D., Blatt, S. J., Stayner, D. A., Kaslow, N., Auerbach, J., Luyten, P., & Lowyck, B. (2015). Manual for the differentiation-relatedness scale. New Haven: Yale University.

Eizirik, M., & Bergmann, D. S. (2004). Ausência paterna e sua repercussão no desenvolvimento da criança e do adolescente: Um relato de caso. Journal of Psychiatry of Rio Grande, 26, 330-336.

Fairbairn, W. R. (1952). Psychological studies of the personality. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Field, A. (2005). Discovering statistics with the SPSS. London, UK: Sage.

Fonagy, P., Gergely, G., Jurist, E. L., & Target, M. (2002). Affect regulation, mentalization and the development of the self. New York: Other Press.

Green, A. (2000). Sources, poussées, buts, objets de la violence in l’enfant, ses parents et le psychanalyste. Paris: Ed. Bayard.

Harpaz-Rotem, I., & Blatt, S. J. (2005). Changes in representations of a self-designated significant other in long-term intensive inpatient treatment of seriously disturbed adolescents and young adults. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 68, 266-282.

Holden, R., Mehta, K., Cunningham, E., & McLeod, L. (2001). Development and preliminary validation of a scale of psychache. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 33, 224-232.

Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1-155.

Khaleque, A., & Rohner, R. P. (2002). Perceived parental acceptance-rejection and psychological adjustment: A meta-analysis of cross-cultural and intracultural studies. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 54-64.

Lebovici, S. (1987). O bebê, a mãe e o psicanalista. Porto Alegre: Artmed.

Levy, K. N., Blatt, S. J., & Shaver, P. R. (1998). Attachment styles and parental representations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 407-419.

Malpique, C. (2003). O fantástico mundo de Alice: Estudos sobre a puberdade feminina. Lisboa: Climepsi.

Marôco, J. P. (2004). Análise estatística com a utilização do SPSS. Lisboa: Edições Sílabo.

McCraine, E. W., & Bass, J. D. (1984). Childhood family antecedents of dependency and self-criticism: Implications for depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93, 3-8.

McHugh, M. L. (2012). Interrater reliability: The kappa statistic. Biochemia Medica, 22, 276-282.

Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2007). Boosting attachment security to promote mental health, prosocial values, and inter-group tolerance. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 139-156.

Mills, J., Green, K., & Reddon, J. (2005). An evaluation of the Psychache Scale on an offender population. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 35, 570-580.

Orbach, I., Mikulincer, M., Sirota, P., & Gilboa-Schechtman, E. (2003). Mental pain: A multidimensional operationalization and definition. Suicide Life Threatening Behavior, 33, 219-230.

Patterson, A., & Holden, R. (2012). Psychache and suicide ideation among men who are homeless: A test of Shneidman’s model. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 42, 147-156.

Pereira, A. I. F., Canavarro, M. C., Cardoso, M. F., & Mendonça, D. V. (2002). Cenários familiares da gravidez na adolescência. Cadernos de Consulta Psicológica, 17-18, 135-144.

Perris, C., Jacobsson, L., Lindström, H., von Knorring, L. V., & Perris, H. (1980). Development of a new inventory for assessing memories of parental rearing behaviour. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 61, 265-274.

Quinlan, D. M., Blatt, S. J., Chevron, E. S., & Wein, S. J. (1992). The analysis of descriptions of parents: Identification of a more differentiated factor structure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 59, 340-351.

Rohner, R. P. (1975). They love me, they love me not: A worldwide study of the effects of parental acceptance and rejection. New Haven: HRAF Press.

Rohner, R. P. (1986). The warmth dimension: Foundations of parental acceptance-rejection theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.

Rohner, R. P. (2004). The parental “acceptance-rejection syndrome”: Universal correlates of perceived rejection. American Psychologist, 59, 830-840.

Rohner, R. P., & Rohner, E. C. (1981). Parental Acceptance-Rejection and Parental Control: Cross-Cultural Codes. Ethnology, 20, 245-260.

Rohner, R. P., & Veneziano, R. A. (2001). The importance of father love: History and contemporary evidence. Review of general Psychology, 5, 382-403.

Sá, M. T. C. (2009). Angústia precoce, rêverie materna, destinos da violência. Interações, 13, 338-352.

Shneidman, E. S. (1993). Suicide as psychache. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 181, 145-147.

Shneidman, E. S. (1996). The suicidal mind: Final thoughts and reflections. Oxford, UK: University Press.

Shneidman, E. S. (1999). The psychological pain assessment scale. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 29, 287-294.

Stern, D. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant. New York: Basic Books.

Troister, T., & Holden, R. (2012). A two-year prospective study of psychache and its relationship to suicidality among high-risk undergraduates. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68, 1019-1027.

Vermote, R., Lowyck, B., Luyten, P., Verhaest, Y., Vertommen, H., Vandeneede, B., . . . Peuskens, J. (2011). Patterns of inner change and their relation with patient characteristics and outcome in a psychoanalytic hospitalization-based treatment for personality disordered patients. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 18, 303-313.

Winnicott, D. W. (1945). Primitive emotional development. The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 26, 137.

Young, Y. F., & Bentler, P. M. (1996). Bootstrapping techniques in analysis of mean and covariance structures. In G. A. Marcoulides & R. E. Schumacker (Eds.), Advanced structural equation modelling techniques (pp. 195-226). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Nº ERC: 107494 | ISSN (in print): 0870-8231 | ISSN (online): 1646-6020 | Copyright © ISPA - CRL, 2012 | Rua Jardim do Tabaco, 34, 1149-041 Lisboa | NIF: 501313672 | The portal and metadata are licensed under the license Creative Commons CC BY-NC