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Dialectical Constructivism: The Integration of Emotion, Autobiographical Memory, and Narrative Identity in Anorexia Nervosa Open Access


Other title
Narrative Identity
Self-Defining Memories
Eating Disorders
Anorexia Nervosa
Emotion Focused Therapy
Interoceptive Awareness
Dialectical Constructivist Theory
Autobiographical Memory
Emotional Awareness
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Emmerling, Michelle E
Supervisor and department
Whelton, William (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Spalding, Thomas (Psychology)
Federici, Anita (Psychology)
Everall, Robin (Dean of Students/Educational Psychology)
Ostolosky, Lara (Psychiatry)
Whelton, William (Educational Psychology)
Pei, Jacqueline (Educational Psychology)
Department of Educational Psychology
Counselling Psychology
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The main purpose of this research project was to use the Dialectical Constructivist Theory as a guiding framework for investigating development difficulties in the construction of self in Anorexia Nervosa (AN). The Dialectical Constructivist Theory suggests that humans construct views of the self and their world in a moment-by-moment fashion through a dialectical relationship between sensory/perceptual and symbolic/logical information. The dissertation is organized into three papers, preceded by a general introduction and followed by a conclusion. The first paper is a systematic review of the psychological treatments for AN. The second and the third papers report on aspects of a study that investigated emotional processing, autobiographical memory, and construction of identity in AN using the Dialectical Constructivist Theory as a guiding framework. A total of 90 adult women participated in the study. There were three equal groups of women who self-identified as being in-recovery from AN, recovered from AN, or never having suffered from an eating disorder. In the second paper, group differences were examined on measures of interoceptive awareness, alexithymia, emotional awareness, and emotional suppression. Women in-recovery from AN were found to have poor interoceptive and emotional awareness, have higher alexithymia scores, and were more likely to suppress their negative emotions. Emotional awareness and alexithymia were the best predictors of group membership using multinomial logistic regression. The goal of the third paper was to investigate autobiographical and self-defining memories (SDMs) in the three groups. Women in-recovery from AN had more over-general emotionally and neutrally cued autographical memories than women in the recovered and control groups. Women in-recovery from AN were also found to have SDMs that were not as integrated into their sense of identity, associated with more negative emotions, and focused more on life-threatening events and guilt/shame themes than women recovered from AN and healthy controls. Overall, the Dialectical Constructivist Theory appears to offer an empirically supported and useful framework for understanding the construction of self in AN.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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