Self-Qualities and Self-Leadership as Pathways Linking Childhood Maltreatment to Depression and Relationship Quality

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Among adults, childhood maltreatment is widely known to increase depressive symptoms and reduce quality of adult’s intimate relationships. Considering the association between childhood maltreatment and adult depression and relationship quality from systemic theories may help clinicians conceptualize and intervene with their clients. Internal Family Systems is an evidenced based psychotherapy and is a trauma-informed model. Self is one of the core concepts of the Internal Family Systems model and it is theorized to reduce mental health problems such as depression and strengthen adult romantic relationships. Despite this theoretical proposition there is no supporting empirical research. To address this gap, the current study examined Self, specifically the qualities of Self (e.g., compassion) and Self-Leadership (e.g., staying calm in face of distress) as pathways linking childhood maltreatment to depression and relationship quality. Using a sample of adults in a romantic relationship, the current study examined Self-Qualities and Self-Leadership as mediators linking retrospective reports of child maltreatment to current depressive symptoms and relationship quality. Results indicate that the indirect (mediating) effects from childhood maltreatment to depressive symptoms and relationship quality were significant through Self-Qualities, but not Self-Leadership. Findings suggest that childhood maltreatment is associated with less frequent access to the qualities of Self, such as compassion and confidence which, in turn, were associated with fewer depressive symptoms and higher levels of relationship quality. For clinicians, the use of IFS and specifically helping clients increase the Self-Qualities may reduce depressive symptoms and strengthen romantic relationships.

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Contemporary Family Therapy

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