Parental and Relationship Representations and Experiences of Depression in College Students

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Young adults’ descriptions of their parents and their relationships with their parents were used to reexamine the relations between object representation and depressive experience. One hundred eight students completed (a) four open-ended descriptions, including two written descriptions of the parents (mother and father, separately), and two written descriptions of the relationships with the parents; and (b) the Depressive Experience Questionnaire. Each of the four open-ended descriptions was rated on seven scales. Factor analysis yielded four distinct factors from the 28 dimensions of the descriptions. These factors were related to: (a) the degree of elaboration and investment, (b) the structural level of the descriptions, (c) the affective tone of the description of the father, and (d) the affective tone of the description of the mother. Significant differences and interactions were found regarding the interplay between the specific significant other represented (father or mother) and the specific framework of representation (parent description or relationship description). Measures derived from parents’ and relationship descriptions significantly predicted depressive experiences of self-criticism and dependency. The results indicate the advantages of a joint exploration of the representation of distinct significant others (mother and father) and the use of two modes of relatedness (describe parent and describe relationship with parent) in the process of personality assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-204
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Personality Assessment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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