Are Schemas Passed on? A Study on the Association Between Early Maladaptive Schemas in Parents and Their Offspring and the Putative Translating Mechanisms

  • Johanna Sundag
  • Christine Zens
  • Leonie Ascone
  • Susanne Thome
  • Tania M Lincoln


BACKGROUND: According to Young's schema theory, Early Maladaptive Schemas (EMSs) arise due to the violation of core emotional needs during childhood. It seems likely that parents have difficulties in satisfying their children's emotional needs if they have high levels of EMSs themselves.

AIMS: This study investigated whether the extent of EMSs in parents is associated with the extent of EMSs in their offspring. Moreover, we tested for two putative mechanisms that account for this association: parental coping styles and parenting behaviour.

METHODS: Sixty dyads of parents (mother or father) and their adult children (N = 120), recruited from the general population, completed the Young Schema Questionnaire. The parents rated their schema coping styles and the children retrospectively rated the parenting of the participating parent.

RESULTS: As expected, parents' EMSs were significantly associated with EMSs in their offspring. This association was accounted for by the parental coping style Overcompensation and the adverse parenting that the child remembered. The parental coping style Avoidance did not account for the association.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides preliminary evidence for the notion that EMSs are passed on from one generation to the next via parental coping and parenting. Our findings thus support the assumption of schema theory that EMSs are connected to the family environment in terms of adverse parenting. If further confirmed, this has relevant implications for family-based interventions.

Bibliografische Daten

StatusVeröffentlicht - 11.2018
PubMed 29510771