Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Allan Berman


This study is an exploratory examination of potential buffer factors which may prove promising in future longitudinal studies addressing resiliency to parental emotional maltreatment (EM). Two additional goals were to replicate previous findings of the relationship between EM and self-esteem on a high school sample, and to further psychometric work on a measure of perceived parental EM.

The overall hypothesis of this study regarding the primary goal was that subjects scoring high on a measure of EM and high on a measure of self-esteem (classified as EM High SE) would be significantly more likely to make use of potential buffer variables (i.e. variables hypothesized to buffer the adolescent's self-esteem from parental EM) than subjects who scored high on EM and low on a measure of self-esteem (EM Low SE subjects). Specifically, EM High SE subjects were expected to: 1) have a later age of EM onset, 2) have experienced a shorter duration of EM, 3) have a warm, loving relationship with at least one parent (most likely the non-maltreating parent), 4) have higher academic achievement, 5) be classified as a higher SES level, 6) be more likely to have special areas of achievement/interest, 7) be more likely to have a relationship with other important people outside of the home, with siblings, with other family members, and/or with friends, and 8) report feeling less attached to their maltreating parent as compared to the EM Low SE subjects. It was expected that EM High SE subjects would be more likely to use the Rejector or Devaluer conflict resolution styles (Steiner, 1966), while EM Low SE subjects were expected to be more likely to use the Conformer conflict resolution style.

One hundred twenty-one subjects were recruited from a local, urban high school. Subjects were asked to complete an 181 item questionnaire comprised of five subscales designed to measure 1) self-esteem, 2) EM, 3) social desirability, 4) use of potential buffer factors, and 5) parental behavior.

ANOV As or chi-square analyses were conducted on each of the potential buffer factors between the EM High SE and EM Low SE groups. These findings suggested that EM High SE subjects had significantly higher overall academic achievement, perceived their friends to be a greater source of comfort and support, and showed a trend toward being more likely to use a Devaluer conflict resolution style as compared to EM Low SE subjects. Previous findings on the relationship between EM and self-esteem were replicated on this high school sample. Specifically, subjects classified as High EM had significantly lower self-esteem scores than subjects classified as moderate or low EM.

A principal components analysis was conducted on the items of the EM measure to determine the factor structure of this measure. This measure appeared to be valid in terms of convergent validity as it moderately correlated with another measure designed to assess parental warmth, hostility, neglect, and rejection.



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