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

  • Author / Creator
    Emmerling, Michelle E
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2013-06
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3FP7F
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Educational Psychology
  • Specialization
    • Counselling Psychology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Whelton, William (Educational Psychology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Pei, Jacqueline (Educational Psychology)
    • Spalding, Thomas (Psychology)
    • Everall, Robin (Dean of Students/Educational Psychology)
    • Ostolosky, Lara (Psychiatry)
    • Federici, Anita (Psychology)
    • Whelton, William (Educational Psychology)