Sociotropy, autonomy, and self-criticism are three distinguishable dimensions of cognitive-personality vulnerability Academic Article uri icon


  • Whereas both Blatt (1974) and Beck (1983) postulated the existence of two basic cognitivepersonality vulnerabilities to depression-sociotropic/anaclitic and autonomous/introjective- recent research and theorizing suggest that self-criticism is a third dimension of vulnerability. To examine the supposition that sociotropy, autonomy, and self-criticism constitute three distinct dimensions of vulnerability, we administered the Personal Style Inventory (PSI; Robins et al., 1994), six items from the Depressive Experiences Questionnaire (DEQ; Blatt, D'Afflitti, & Quinlan, 1976) and the Brief Symptoms Inventory (BSI; Derogatis & Melisaratos, 1983) to 203 Israeli young adults. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) provided support for the hypothesized three-factor solution. Regression analyses indicated that each of these dimensions was associated with psychopathology. Findings encourage further integrative work in the field of personality vulnerability. Keywords: self-criticism; sociotropy; autonomy; personality vulnerability The purpose of the present article is to propose, and provide an initial test to, an integrative conceptualization of cognitive-personality vulnerability to depression and general psychopathology. To that aim, we build on Blatt (1974) and Beck (1983), who identified two types of cognitive-personality vulnerability dimensions that emphasize either interpersonal relatedness or self-definition: the anaclitic-sociotropic dimension and the autonomous-introjective one (Beck, 1983; Blatt, 1974, 1995, 1998; Blatt & Shichman, 1983). While several measures have been used to assess these dimensions, including the Depressive Experiences Questionnaire (DEQ, Blatt, D'Afflitti, & Quinlan, 1976), the Sociotropy-Autonomy Scale (SAS, Beck, Epstein, Harrison, & Emery, 1983), and the Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale (Weissman & Beck, 1978), the Personal Style Inventory (PSI; Robins et al., 1994) appears to be the most well suited for this task (for a recent review and data, see Shahar, 2006). The PSI is a 48-item inventory that assesses six vulnerability domains: concerns about what others think of self, excessive dependency, pleasing others, perfectionism/self-criticism, need for control, and defensive separation. The first three domains comprise a sociotropy dimension, whereas the latter three domains comprise an autonomy dimension. Six validation studies were conducted with the PSI and were informed by guidelines for scale development and testing described by prominent psychometricians (DeVellis, 1991; Nunnally, 1978). These studies evidenced excellent reliability and validity coefficients, and results of exploratory factor analysis were consistent with the presence of the sociotropy and autonomy dimensions (see Robins et al., 1994). It is important to note, however, that three recent studies raised questions regarding the perfectionism/self-criticism subscale (PESC), which ostensibly "belongs" to the autonomy dimension. Bagby, Parker, Joffe, Schuller, and Gilchrist (1998) conducted confirmatory factor analysis of the PSI in a large sample ( N = 869) of nonclinical participants, as well as a smaller sample ( N = 101) of outpatients with major depression. These authors confirmed a second-order factor structure of the PSI. The first order factor level was comprised of the six specific vulnerability domains, and the second order factor level was comprised of the sociotropy and autonomy dimensions. However, the PESC domain had statistically significant and equally strong loadings, on both the sociotropy and autonomy dimensions, suggesting that it related to both. Hong and Lee (2001), investigating 574 Korean college students, replicated the factor structure obtained by Bagby et al. (1998), including the finding whereby PESC had loadings on both sociotropy and autonomy dimensions. Hong and Lee (2001) observed that PESC relies on too few items (i.e., four items), and that most, if not all, of these items are not uniquely related to the autonomy construct. …

publication date

  • January 1, 2008