Emotional Maladjustment Among Indigenous Australians

The current study in Moora has been reloaded. The thesis is slowly being reconstructed. The beginning is below. More will slowly follow as I rewrite the literature reveiew, aims and hypotheses, and then try to muddle through the statistics! 

A sneek peek would reveal significantly high negative affectivity and much difficlty in identifying emotions, in the Moora population. These two variables are positively related, meaning that as negative affect increases it is found that difficulties in identifying emotion increases. This difficulty is a facet of alexithymia.

Sixty-seven Indigenous people took part in this study, consisting of 39 females, 23 males and 5 individuals of undisclosed gender. The mean age is 42.81 (SD = 15.09).

 

Emotional Maladjustment Among Indigenous Australians

by Fr Chris Webb

Social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) was coined in the late 1980s (Bamblett, Frederico, Harrison, Jackson, & Lewis, 2012) to define Indigenous health in terms of total wellbeing (Gee, Dudgeon, Shultz, Hart, & Kelly, 2014). SEWB encompasses physical and mental health, and aspects of the traumatic history associated with the burden of mental health problems (Garvey, 2008). Currently, the number of validated measures of SEWB are limited e.g., Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (3-16 years); the Westerman Aboriginal Symptoms Checklist for Youth (13-17 at risk of depression, suicide and anxiety); The Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) (and its abridged version the K6+); and Strong Souls (a measure of anxiety, depression, suicide risk and resilience) (Thomas, Cairney, Gunthorpe, Paradies, & Sayers, 2010).

It is questionable whether the existing scales comprehensively measure SEWB. First, SEWB is the sum of both internal and external factors. Second, the study of negative constructs of emotional wellbeing is foreign to Indigenous psychology where the meaning of expressions such as ‘emotional problems’ is unclear (Reser, 1991). The lack of research into negative internal factors of Indigenous mental health is not surprising as SEWB is understood almost exclusively in relation to the experience of intergenerational trauma (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2016). Any attribution of emotional unwellness seemingly involves only factors external to the individual e.g., discrimination, racism, grief and loss, social exclusion, economic and social disadvantage, incarceration, exposure to violence, substance abuse and physical health problems (Zubrick et al., 2014).

This study introduces the concept of emotional maladjustment (EM). EM is a negative construal of emotional wellbeing, representing an identifiable gap in knowledge about the wellbeing of Indigenous people in Australia. This research is import because knowledge leads to resilience (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014) which in turn contributes to SEWB.

Background

The background to the investigation of EM is 16 years of observation by the researcher, who has served Aboriginal people in Western Australia as house-parent, street-worker and catholic priest. During this period, the researcher recalls events involving Indigenous Australians and that have escalated into aggressive outbursts. These were generally characterised by the display of negative emotion, intended to communicate personal intent. These behaviours reveal characteristics of alexithymia where deficient emotional awareness is associated with abnormal interpersonal relating (FeldmanHall, Dalgleish, & Mobbs, 2013). Examples of such behaviour are times when Indigenous men and women (living homeless on the streets of Perth) have erupted with negative emotion, found glass objects (from the nearest rubbish bin) to form into a weapon, and presented themselves for conflict. From these observed dysfunctional means of interpersonal relating characterised by the display of negative affect, EM is inferred.

Pervasive negative emotions can influence perceptions of self and other-concept, and of the world (Watson & Clark, 1984; Watson et al., 1988). But when the display of negative emotion overrides mindful behaviour, it is assumed that persons emotional processing is maladjusted due to the impact of negative perceptions. Hence, EM is conceptualised as inadequate emotional adjustment associated with negative affectivity (NA) and other variables, such as alexithymia, that may influence perception and cognitive engagement with/regulation of, emotion.

Emotional Maladjustment, Negative Affectivity, and Behaviour

EM is thought to be an emotional state influenced by NA and variables such as alexithymia, and thought to represent a vulnerability in affect regulation. Affect regulation is a universal human task, so a general literature review of emotional maladjustment and negative affect is appropriate for this study. That review disclosed patterns of association. For example (a) in infertility cases trait anxiety, state anxiety, negative affect, and low interpersonal resources strongly predict emotional maladjustment associated with alexithymia (Xesús et al., 2015) (b) emotional dysregulation mediates the link between NA and aggression (Donahue, Goranson, McClure, & Van Male, 2014) (c) the broader concept of maladjustment shares associations with negative affect (e.g., Dunkley, Zuroff, & Blankstein, 2006; Haller & Chassin, 2011; De Pauw, Mervielde, Van Leeuwen, & De Clercq, 2011), and (d) as trait anxiety is a central feature of NA (Watson & Clark, 1984) evidence that anxious attachment style predicts adult maladjustment (Sroufe, 1988) associates NA, maladjustment and parenting (see also Haller & Chassin, 2011).

To clarify these associations, negative emotion can be differentiated from NA, general maladjustment, and EM. Negative emotions are a part of daily life and require the capacity for effective self-regulation (Stasiewicz et al., 2012) – meaning that negative moods such as fear, anxiety, hostility, scorn and disgust (Watson, Clark, & Carey, 1988) are managed through self-regulation. NA refers to a broad and pervasive personality trait defined as the disposition to experience aversive emotional states (Watson & Clark, 1984) – meaning that negative emotions are not managed and emotional-regulation fails to occur. This can lead to trait anxiety, introspection, and focussing on the negative side of others and the world (Watson & Clark, 1984). A person with NA persistently experiences negative emotion and thought regardless of environmental demand, and which is why this condition is not entirely separable from general maladjustment (Watson & Clark, 1984). However, it is thought that other factors influence the processing of affect, causing a vulnerability in affect regulation specific to EM. In conclusion:

  • EM is differentiated from negative emotional experiences in that it is an unmanageable negative mood state.
  • EM is a negative mood state that is associated with general maladjustment.
  • Other factors may affect EM, contributing to the vulnerability in affect regulation. 

Due to underlying NA, one facet of EM is a pervasive experience of negative emotions that influence perceptions of self and other-concept, and of the world (Watson & Clark, 1984; Watson et al., 1988). Subsequently, an individual’s affect laden cognition (i.e., thinking about self, others etc. biased by pervasive negative emotions) must impact their behaviour. The subjective experience of NA and the ensuing maladjusted behaviour only represent a different emphasis (Watson & Clark, 1984). Maladaptive behaviour follows maladaptive cognition – that has its roots in an individual’s state of EM.

The association of NA and impulsive behaviour in mothers who show aggression, and are abusive towards their children (Black, Heyman, & Slep, 2001), supports a link between their maladaptive behaviour, and EM. In that study NA was moderately to strongly associated with child physical abuse, among other factors such as aggression. Other studies found that impulsive aggression is driven by NA (Mammen, Kolko, & Pilkonis, 2002). Donahue et al. (2014) showed that NA, mediated by emotional dysregulation, contributes to reactive aggressive behavior in child physical abuse. In every case EM is consistently related to maladaptive behaviour. 

In those cases, NA plays a role in maladjusted behaviour. However, NA cannot be said to determine the way individuals act. NA is associated with emotional dysregulation and reactive/impulsive aggression (Donahue et al., 2014), and maladaptive behaviour in general (Watson & Clark, 1984), but does not cause these behaviours. However, the intention on which human’s act, can be influenced by affect laden negative perceptions (due to NA) of self and others, and the world (Watson & Clark, 1984; Watson et al., 1988). These perceptions are phenomena that bias thinking. And this dimension (perceptual and phenomenological) of trait NA is specific to EM.

Accordingly, EM is defined in terms of vulnerability in affect regulation due to state-specific negative perception. And according to the Schematic, Propositional, Analogical, and Associative Representation System (SPAARS) model of emotion (Power & Dalgeish, 1997, 2008), that vulnerability could occur at the associative level – such as pervasive negative emotion influencing perceptions of self and other-concept, and of the world (Watson & Clark, 1984; Watson et al., 1988), or where schema are involved in the processing of emotion i.e., cognitive appraisal/priming in the processing of emotion (cf. Tang, Chen, Hu, & Liu, 2017).

Researching Emotional Maladjustment

First. The link between NA and maladjusted behaviour is a logical starting point from which to research EM. However, NA research does not exist for Australian Indigenous populations. In one study expectancies of negative affect change mediated the association of alcohol problems and family violence (Kelly & Kowalyszyn, 2003). Those expectancies point to the dysregulation of negative mood in maladaptive behaviours. Whereas the links between physical aggression and emotion dysregulation (Donahue et al., 2014) and physical violence/abuse (Black, Heyman, & Slep, 2001) that are also associated with NA, together with the high prevalence of Indigenous family violence and maltreatment of children (involving sexual, physical or emotional abuse and/or neglect) (Stanley, Tomison, & Pocock, 2003), argue that unregulated NA is associated with those behaviours.

Sadly, Indigenous family violence is disproportionately high in comparison with the Australian population, and child abuse and neglect is so severe, that it is thought it will affect another generation (Stanley et al., 2003). And although environmental stressors (e.g., very low income), personality factors, family relationships etc., associated with child emotional abuse (Black, Slep, & Heyman, 2001), may mitigate against and account for some of these behaviours, NA alone shares associations with violence and child physical abuse (Black, Heyman, & Slep, 2001). It is reasonable to assume that NA may be a factor in the cycle of family violence/trauma. It is also reasonable to theorise that, for this cycle to be occurring, EM is also present.

Assuming EM is differentiated from emotional dysregulation (in that EM refers to the processing of negative affect only), it can be further assumed that just as emotional dysregulation mediates NA and can lead to violence (Donahue et al., 2014), EM is NA driven and can lead to similar maladjusted behaviour. This is reasonable as unmanaged negative emotion is more specific to intending violence. This supports the assumption that NA, that cooccurs with maladjusted behaviour, is present in Indigenous Australian populations.

Second. Alexithymia is a logical paradigm, within which, to investigate EM as it predisposes individuals to experiencing increased NA (Bailey & Henry, 2007), and denotes an inability to process and to regulate emotions (van der Velde et al., 2015; Kojima, 2012). It shares associations with emotional abuse (Cuneyt, Bilge, Ercan, Basak, & Fatih, 2009) and NA (Bailey & Henry, 2007; Dubey, Pandey, & Mishra, 2010; Lundh & Simonsson-Sarnecki, 2001). Elevated negative affect has been specifically associated with an inability to identify and describe affective and physiological experiences (Stasiewicz et al., 2012), which is characteristic of alexithymia.

Third. As alexithymia is a symptom of the failure to regulate emotion (Bagby et al., 2009) in general, and as attachment style accounts for individual differences in emotional regulation (Cooper, Shaver, & Collins, 1998) this research will investigate attachment styles as potentially forming part of the EM construct. Attachment style has been found to amplify negative affect and contribute to the dysregulation of negative affect (Sheinbaum et al., 2015).

Last, as schemas influence perception (Beck & Clark, 1988), it is further anticipated that early maladaptive schemas (EMS) form a part of the structure of EM. In sum, NA, alexithymia, attachment style, and EMS are proposed as variables that underlie the structure of EM by contributing to the accentuation of negative perceptions. Infant attachment is the chronologically logical starting point to discuss the remaining variables.   

Insecure Attachment, Emotional Maladjustment, and Personality Deficits

Attachments are bonds formed between an infant and caregiver. The way an infant manages their emotions in that relationship is called an attachment style, described as either secure, anxious-ambivalent, or avoidant (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978). Attachment styles, as internalised models of bonding, influence individual responses to separation from, and reunion to, their attachment figures (Montebarocci, Codispoti, Baldaro, & Rossi, 2004). Those working models persist into adulthood (Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Wearden, Lamberton, Crook, & Walsh, 2005) representing adaptive/maladaptive orientations to relationships (Downey & Fieldman, 1996).

Working models involve the encoding of interpersonal situations, the formation of behavioural expectancies, the placing of value on the response of significant others, and the regulation of emotional responses (i.e., emotional regulation strategies) to those significant others (Feldman & Downey, 1994). Individuals with secure attachment use emotional regulation strategies that activate positive emotions (Besharat & Shahidi, 2014). The presumption is that healthy attitudes towards significant others are formed which would positively bias perception, thought and emotional responses. It makes sense that this style is negatively associated with alexithymia (Besharat & Shahidi, 2014; Abadi, Abdolmohamadi, Kheiradin, & Roodsari, 2015).

Early childhood is also a time of increased vulnerability to psychopathology associated with emotional dysregulation (Ahmed, Bittencourt-Hewitt, & Sebastian, 2015). Those insecurely attached use regulation strategies that emphasise the negative emotions (Besharat & Shahidi, 2014). These styles—(i) avoidant (Abadi et al., 2015; De Rick & Vanheule, 2006; Besharat & Shahidi, 2014) and (ii) anxious-ambivalent (Abadi et al., 2015; Besharat & Shahidi, 2014)—are positively associated with alexithymia. Impacts on the processing of negative affect, are presumed during this critical stage of development.   

Insecure attachment styles emphasise negative affect by shaping expectancies surrounding negative emotion which develops into a personal style of coping with negative experiences (Cooper et al., 1998; Montebarocci et al., 2004). When caregivers respond insufficiently to a child’s negative emotions, that child can repress those experiences by using avoidant strategies (Besharat & Shahidi, 2014). In this same situation, an anxious-ambivalent child does not repress the negative affect, rather they experience it as distress (Besharat & Shahidi, 2014). Both styles of coping represent different expressions of emotional dysfunction within attachment relationships.

The further linking of insecure attachment, the accentuation of negative affect, and alexithymia (Besharat & Shahidi, 2014) is to be anticipated as alexithymia is argued to be a symptom of the failure to regulate emotion (Bagby et al., 2009). People with alexithymia experience interpersonal deficits in forming social attachments (Ridings & Lutz-Zois, 2014) due to emotional problems (Meaney, Hasking, & Reupert, 2016) formed in early childhood. Cognitive emotion regulation strategies, mediate the relationship between insecure attachment and alexithymia, because those individuals emphasise negative emotions, avoid emotional experiences, and experience more stress (Besharat & Shahidi, 2014).

These deficits may be explained in terms of difficulty in identifying feelings (DIF) (a sub-measure of alexithymia), anxiety (Marchesi, Brusamonti, & Maggini, 2000), and NA (Bailey & Henry, 2007; Dubey et al., 2010; Watson & Clark, 1984). DIF may be a response to caregiver NA and caregiver-infant related anxiety which would explain the inability to form social attachments (characteristic of alexithymia), and possibly how the accentuation of negative perception may lead to EM – particularly as (in individuals with high levels of alexithymia) the lack of awareness, and regulation of, emotion manifests as elevated subjective negative affect (Connelly & Denney, 2007).

Kreitler (2002) thinks that the lack of awareness (and regulation of) of emotion is due to a split in cognition and affect, due to deficient emotional learning in childhood. Ayoub, Fischer, and O'Connor (2003) found that the splitting/dissociation of the self in abusive attachment relationships, enabled adolescence to cope with those relationships. This evidence further helps define alexithymia in terms of developmental deficits caused by inadequate caring, insecure attachment, and a deficient cognitive development of symbolisation and fantasy (Kreitler, 2002). Similarly, Kooiman, Spinhoven, Trijsburg, and Rooijmans (1998) associated alexithymia with defence mechanisms formed in early childhood.

Broadly, alexithymia refers to a general impairment in the awareness of emotions due to a failure in connecting the implicit and explicit processing of affect (Subic-Wrana, Bruder, Thomas, Lane, & Köhle, 2005). Its defining features are (a) difficulty in identify and describing feelings (b) difficulty distinguishing between feelings and the sensations of emotional arousal (c) impoverished fantasy life and (d) focusing on concrete aspects of external events (Kreitler, 2002).

The Fourth Factor of Affect Regulation

The current research is an investigation of an observed vulnerability in the regulation of negative emotion, attributed to the hypothesised latent variable, EM. This vulnerability is being studied (i) from the perspective of attachment styles that account for individual differences in emotional regulation, the shaping expectancies surrounding negative emotion, and the development of coping strategies, and (ii) in association with alexithymia that is linked to impaired emotional regulation, and the manifestation of negative affect. 

The focus is the relationship between EM and the dysregulation of NA through the accentuation of negative perception. EM could manifest through the repression of negative emotion (i.e., avoidant strategies) or the experience of distress (i.e., anxious-ambivalent strategies) (Besharat & Shahidi, 2014). And as alexithymia impedes the regulation of negative affect (Connelly & Denney, 2007), perhaps suppression tends to be used to regulate emotion rather than reappraisal (Swart, Kortekaas, & Aleman, 2009)? 

In considering factors that induce vulnerability in affect regulation – unmanaged emotional states associated with NA, insecure attachment, and alexithymia – schemas must also be considered. Schemas influence affect regulation (Beck & Clark, 1988) and are thought to contribute to EM. 

Early Maladaptive Schemas

Beck and Clark (1988) defined schemas as organised knowledge structures that influence cognitive processes such as attention, perception, learning and retrieval of information, and form processing biases. Young (1994) found that maladaptive schemas form in early childhood because of unmet needs (Bosmans, Braet, & Van Vlierberghe, 2010). EMS relate to memories, emotions, cognitions, and feelings about the body and communicating with others (Abadi et al., 2015), comprising of five domains of need and 15 schemas (Thimm, 2010). For example, (i) children who experiences emotional detachment, rejection or abuse may develop core beliefs of being unwanted, inferior or unlovable in the domain of disconnection and rejection, (ii) the domain of impaired autonomy stems from an early environment that fails to reinforce a child appropriately, or that undermines a child’s perceived competence, and (iii) schema in the domain of overvigilance and inhibition are cultivated in early environments that are demanding and rigid, and where abiding by rules is rewarded in a way that inhibits personal exploration (Dozois, Martin, & Bieling, 2009). Table 1 presents Young’s (1994) EMS cited in Thimm (2013) and Chakhssi, Bernstein, and Ruiter (2014).

Table 1

Description of the EMS proposed by Young (1994)

Scale

Description

Disconnection and rejection domain

 

Emotional deprivation

The expectation that one’s need for nurturance, empathy, and protection will not be met by others.

Abandonment/instability

 

The belief that significant others providing support are unstable, unreliable or unpredictable.

Mistrust/abuse

The expectation that others will intentionally hurt, abuse, cheat, or take advantage.

Social isolation

The feeling that one is fundamentally different from other people, isolated, and not part of a community.

Defectiveness/shame

The belief that one is inherently flawed, defective, and unlovable.

Impaired autonomy and performance domain

 

Failure to achieve

 

Belief of being fundamentally inadequate and will inevitably fail.

Dependence

The belief that one is dependent of others to handle everyday life.

Vulnerability

The fear that an imminent and unpreventable catastrophe will strike at any time.

Enmeshment

Extensive emotional involvement and closeness with significant others at the expense of full individuation.

Impaired limits domain

 

Entitlement

The belief that one is superior and entitled to special rights and privileges.

Insufficient self-control

A lack of self-control and tolerance of frustration to achieve one’s goals.

Other-directedness domain

 

Subjugation

 

The belief that one has to surrender control to others and to suppress one’s own needs and emotions.

Self-sacrifice

An excessive focus on meeting the needs of others at the expense of one’s own needs and well-being.

Over-vigilance and inhibition domain

 

Emotional inhibition

 

The belief that one must inhibit spontaneous feelings and actions.

Unrelenting standards

The belief that one must strive to meet high internalized standards.

 

EMS have been likened to internal working models of attachment (Gay, Harding, Jackson, Burns, & Baker, 2013). They develop during adverse interactions with attachment figures (Bosmans et al., 2010), evolve to partially define the construct of self and significant others, resist modification, and become trait-like (Thimm, 2013). As pervasive and deep rooted patterns of cognition and affect, they influence cognitive processing by shaping context specific mental processes (Young, Klosko, & Weishaar, 2003) and are a form of contextual priming. This biasing of affect states occurs through proximal cognitive processes (Calvete & Orue, 2012) represents a vulnerability in affect regulation at the schematic level. 

Because EMS develop during adverse interactions with attachment figures (Bosmans et al., 2010) and as cognition and affect states are interrelated, EMS are likely contributors to emotional dysregulation within those caregiver-child attachment bonds, or vice-versa. Therefore, EMS likely share developmental pathways associated with insecure attachment.

Shared Developmental Pathways

EMS develop when core psychological needs of secure attachment, autonomy, freedom to express valid needs and emotions, and having realistic limits, are not met (Thimm, 2010). Meeting those core psychological needs is being impeded by stress, chaos, social exclusion and inequality that damage the development of social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous children (Zubrick et al., 2014). This “growing chaos” (Zubrick et al., 2014, p. 98) disrupts attachment, adversely affects the emotional regulation and the autonomy of developing children (Zubrick et al., 2014) and is negatively associated with the emotional growth and the behavioral adaptation of children (Ackerman, Kogos, Youngstrom, Schoff, & Izard, 1999).

The current chaotic family environments suggest that EMS develop in childhood, among Indigenous Australians. These maladaptive environments are associated with stress (Zubrick et al., 2014). Stress shares multiple pathways with NA (Moyle, 1995), making the family a place in which children also become accustomed to the experience of negative affect and negative cognition (i.e., NA) (Watson & Clark, 1984; Watson et al., 1988).

It is reasonable to argue that the family is where children develop vulnerabilities in affect regulation, associated with NA and specific maladaptive biases/schemas. Those EMS are associated with psychopathology (Thimm, 2013) and emotional dysregulation (Ahmed et al., 2015). So, as alexithymia is considered a defect in affect regulation, due to deficient emotional learning in childhood (Kreitler, 2002), the chaotic family environment is suited to the development of all facets of EM (insecure attachment, NA, alexithymia and EMS).

In fact, EMS that influence affect regulation (Beck & Clark, 1988) and bias affect states (Calvete & Orue, 2012), share associations with attachment style and alexithymia. Elements of adult working models (e.g., anxiety, negative self-view, distress experienced through insecure attachment, and negative affect), are associated with EMS (Simard, Moss, & Pascuzzo, 2011). Insecure adult attachments are related to rejection schemas, developed in childhood (Bosmans et al., 2010). Those with anxious-ambivalent attachment are susceptible to multiple EMS (Simard, et al., 2011) such as disconnection/rejection and other-directedness (Bosmans et al., 2010; Gay et al., 2013). Attachment avoidance is associated with schemas of disconnection/rejection and impaired autonomy (Bosmans et al., 2010), and disconnection/rejection and overvigilance and inhibition (Gay et al., 2013). And avoidant attachment, linked to both impaired autonomy and over-vigilance, predicts alexithymia (Abadi et al., 2015).

In review, EMS are thought to be facets of the EM construct, representing a vulnerability in affect regulation at the schematic level. EMS are presumed to co-occur/develop along with insecure attachment styles, alexithymia, and NA. Robust associations have been found between the EMS domain of disconnection/rejection and insecure attachment (i.e., both anxious-ambivalent and avoidant attachment). Forming part of that domain (disconnection/rejection) is the schema of abandonment/instability, resonant with the described growing chaos and instability (Zubrick et al., 2014) within Indigenous communities. However, no evidence exists for that association. Other proven association are between avoidant attachment, overvigilance and inhibition, impaired autonomy, and alexithymia.

The Construct of EM

EM refers to an individual’s internal state that represents a vulnerability in affect regulation, and is thought to contribute to maladjusted behaviour. It is a latent variable, meaning it is not directly observable like, for example, the emotion of anger. EM is inferred on the evidence of the observation of individuals animated with negative emotion and who failed to manage, or communicate those feelings in a constructive, rational manner. EM is thought to be a vulnerability in affect regulation due to the overemphasis of state-specific negative perception (thus differentiating EM from emotional dysregulation) that may facilitate emotionally expressive, yet unmindful behaviour. More than mere NA, EM is a hypothesised construct with four facets: NA, EMS, a difficulty in identifying feelings, and insecure attachment style.

Aims and Hypotheses

To reduce knowledge gaps in SEWB and contribute to learning strategies that promote resilience (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014), this study aims to more fully understand the influence of negative emotions in the lives of Indigenous Australians. Those emotions have seldom been considered independent of the trauma suffered by Indigenous people (Garvey, 2008; Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2016). To meet that gap in knowledge this study investigates EM which is a negative construal of emotional wellbeing. That construct manifests through the association of NA, insecure attachment, EMS, and alexithymia. The following interrelated hypotheses were formulated to indicate EM.  

1.         Levels of NA will be high in Indigenous Australian populations, compared with Australian population norms – indicative of EM. This is because of the link between violence and abuse with NA (Black et al., 2001; Mammen, Kolko, & Pilkonis, 2002; Donahue et al., 2014) and evidence of those behaviours in Indigenous Australian communities (Stanley et al., 2003), it is hypothesised that levels of NA will be high in Indigenous Australian populations, compared with Australian population.

2.         Indigenous persons with insecure attachment styles will tend to be high in NA compared to Indigenous Australian persons with secure attachment styles – indicative of EM. As NA is characterised by the inability to manage negative moods (Watson & Clark, 1984; Watson, Clark, & Carey, 1988) and as insecurely attached persons use regulation strategies that emphasise negative emotions (Besharat & Shahidi, 2014) it is hypothesised that persons with insecure attachment styles will tend to be high in NA compared to Indigenous Australian persons with secure attachment styles – indicative of EM. 

3.         Indigenous Australian persons with insecure attachment styles will tend to have developed EMS in one or more of the domains of disconnection, impaired autonomy, or overvigilance and inhibition (Simard, Moss, & Pascuzzo, 2011; Bosmans, Braet, & Van Vlierberghe, 2010; Gay, Harding, Jackson, Burns, & Baker, 2013) – indicative of EM.

4.         Indigenous Australian persons high in NA will tend to have difficulties in identifying feelings (DIF) – indicative of EM. This is because alexithymia is associated with dysregulation of negative affect (Connelly & Denney, 2007); DIF overlaps anxiety (Marchesi, Brusamonti, & Maggini, 2000) which is a central feature of NA (Watson & Clark, 1984); DIF is associated with childhood abuse, affect dysregulation (Evren, Evren, Dalbudak, Ozcelik, & Oncu, 2009) and NA (Black et al., 2001); and NA is significantly related to DIF (Dubey & Pandey, 2013).

5.         Intercorrelations between the measures of NA, DIF, insecure attachment style, and EMS will identify a four-factor latent variable EM.

Method

Participants

In February 2017, 67 Aboriginal (Nyoongar) adults from the wheatbelt town of Moora, Western Australia, located 185 kilometres north of Perth, took part in written surveys about their psychological wellbeing. The criterion was being over 18 years of age and the sample consisted of 39 females, 23 males and 5 individuals of undisclosed gender, drawn from an Indigenous population of approximately 286 (58% female, 42% male) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). The mean age was 42.81 (SD = 15.09). Consent was given and participants received $20 compensation. The total population of Moora is approximately 1822 (51.3% female, 48.7% male).

Design

An independent groups design enabled associations to be assessed between the following variables (each measured on a 5-point scale): NA, DIF, attachment style and EMS, and the testing of mean differences across the sample for each hypothesis (i.e., NA means in (a) Indigenous Australian versus general Australian populations (b) secure versus insecure attachment styles (c) individuals with DIF versus ‘non-DIF,’ and EMS present in those with insecure versus secure attachment styles).

Data analysis involved descriptive statistics and independent samples t-tests. An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was performed to account for the shared variance between the variables, indicating constituent factors of the underlying latent variable, EM.

Materials

I-PANAS-SF (Thompson, 2007). The positive and negative affect schedule-short form is a 10-item measure of affectivity (positive and negative). It is designed to measure positive affectivity (PA) and NA in cross-cultural research settings, making redundant words closely related to each other (in meaning) in Watson, Clark, and Tellegan’s (1988) original 20-item PANAS (Thompson, 2007). It is noted that alexithymia is seldom so severe that individuals are unable to self-report emotional distress (Lundh, & Simonsson‚ÄźSarnecki, 2001) required by the PANAS scale.

The items are (a) PA: active, determined, attentive, inspired, and alert (b) NA: afraid, nervous, upset, hostile, and ashamed. Participants were asked to describetheir feelings and emotions according to the adjective used, indicating to what extent they felt that way generally using an interval measure: never 1 2 3 4 5 always. Higher scores indicate greater affectivity. Test-retest coefficient of reliability for both the PA and NA subscales were both .84 (p < .01) and Cronbach’s alpha was .78 for PA and .76 for NA, indicating adequate reliability (Thompson, 2007).

I-PANAS-SF scores correlate strongly with the PANAS so scoring could be achieved by halving those found by Watson et al. (1988), i.e. the PA mean would become 16.65 and the NA mean would become 8.7. This study adopted Thompson’s (2007) mean scores for the Australian population (N =1,789): PA = 19.16 (SD = 3.39), NA = 10.76 (SD = 3.36).

            TAS-20 (Bagby, Parker, & Taylor, 1994). The 20 item Toronto Alexithymia Scale is a self-report measure of alexithymia. It has three subscales: DIF (α = .81) has seven items (e.g., “When I am upset, I don’t know if I am sad, frightened, or angry”); difficulty describing feelings (α = .75) has five items (e.g., “It is difficult for me to find the right words for my feelings”); externally oriented thinking (α = .66) has eight items (e.g., “I prefer talking to people about their daily activities rather than their feelings”). Participants are asked to agree/disagree with each item on a 5-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = moderately disagree, 3 = neither disagree nor agree, 4 = moderately agree, and 5 = strongly agree). Higher scores indicate greater alexithymia. Overall, the TAS-20 demonstrated acceptable internal consistency (α = .81) and the test-retest (three weeks apart) reliability was .77 (p < 0.01). The current study used a single subscale, DIF. DIF has the highest internal consistency of the three subscales, and accounts for the greatest variance in the factor solution found by Bagby, Parker, and Taylor (1994).  

The scoring of the TAS-20 is as follows: equal to or less than 51 = non-alexithymia; 52-60 = possible alexithymia; and equal to or greater than 61 = alexithymia (Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, 2017). The following (proportionate) scheme was adopted in the present study to indicate DIF: equal to or greater than 19 = no DIF; 20-21 = possible DIF; and equal to or greater than 22 = DIF (Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, 2017).

Attachment Style (Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Cooper, Shaver, & Collins, 1998). Secure, avoidant, and anxious-ambivalent attachment (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978) styles were measured by a version of Hazan and Shaver’s (1987) adult attachment self-report questionnaire found in Cooper et al., (1998). The construct validity has been established through multiple studies (30 between 1987 and 1998) where attachment style was rated on a 7-point scale (Cooper et al., 1998).

In the present study, each participant replied to: “Have you ever been involved in a serious romantic relationship? If not, please imagine what your experience would be like in such a relationship. For each description below indicate whether this describes (or would describe) you in your romantic relationships on a scale of 1-5” (yes, this definitely describes me 1 2 3 4 5 no, this does not describe me).

The adult attachment styles were described as follows (Cooper et al., 1998):

  • Avoidant: “I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.”
  • Secure: “I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don't worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me.”
  • Anxious-ambivalent: “I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or won't want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away.”

Early Maladaptive Schemas (Young, 1994). Young (1994) identified 15 EMS (see Table 1). EMS are maladaptive patterns of cognition and affect that influence current behaviour. Young’s (1994) schema definitions were reconfigured to form items in domains of disconnection and rejection, impaired autonomy and performance, and overvigilance and inhibition. For example, in the domain of disconnection and rejection one item was: “Do you believe that your emotional needs will be taken care of by other people?” Items were rated on a 5-point scale. As the Schema Questionnaire-Short form (Young, 1998) has 75 items (see Hoffart et al., (2005) who report its adequate internal consistency and factorial structure), reducing items to indicate the schemas per se was considered suitable for the initial exploration of schema whilst not fatiguing participants.

Procedure

The research included a consultation process with local members of the Nyoongar community. A letter of support was issued and the investigator was encouraged to visit people in their houses to personally invite them to participate in the research. The advantage of soliciting participants in person is that the investigator could clarify any questions about the research and manage any possible risks of participation by providing understanding and support, and calling on additional support if needed.

When individuals showed interest in participating they there given an explanatory statement (which was to be kept), two C4-envelopes, a consent form, and a questionnaire. After a suitable reading time participants were invited to asks questions. Next, they were instructed (a) that they may complete the consent form and a questionnaire at a time and place suitable to them (b) to place completed documents into separate C4-envelopes (marked “A” for consent forms and “B” for the questionnaires) and (c) that they may submit both C4-envelopes together to the Moora Post Office where participants would receive the incentive promised to them and (d) completed forms would be sealed, and be kept separately, to ensure confidentiality.  

Results

The data was entered into SPSS statistical software (IBM, 64-bit edition, build 1.0.0.355, 2017). Participants 31, 61 and 62 were removed due to the selection of only maximum scores in the column(s) of one (or more) of the questions in the EM materials. No univariate outliers were identified in the revised data. A calculation of Mahalanobis distances revealed no multivariate outliers either. Missing values were assigned the value of -1.

Hypotheses

Levels of NA will be high in Indigenous Australian populations, compared with Australian population norms. A total of 55 participants completed the five NA items in the questionnaire. Scores ranged between 5-24, with a mean of 11.95 and a standard deviation of 4.37. Table 2 shows the statistics for individual items.

SPSS calculates significance without reference to overall group standard deviation and participant numbers. Therefore, a more sophisticated online unpaired t test was used (https://www.graphpad.com/quickcalcs/ttest1/) to test hypothesis 1. The following statistics were entered from the Moora sample: N = 55, M = 11.95, SD = 4.37 and from an Australian sample: N = 1789, M = 10.76, SD = 3.36. As expected, NA was found to be higher in the Moora sample than in the Australian population. The mean difference of 1.19 is significant, t(1842) = 2.56, p = .0105. The 95% confidence interval in mean difference was between .28 to 2.10.

As a comparison the SPSS one-sample t test results were also significant, t(54) = 2.01, p = .049, the mean difference was 1.19 and the 95% confidence interval in mean difference was between .00 and 2.37. Both statistical methods find that levels of NA tend to be significantly higher in the Indigenous Australian population in Moora, compared with Australian population norms.

Table 2

Mean Scores for NA Items (I-PANAS-SF)

 

Number

Minimum

Maximum

Mean

Std. Deviation

Upset

61

1.00

5.00

2.54

1.16

Hostile

59

1.00

5.00

2.15

1.11

Ashamed

59

1.00

5.00

2.05

1.21

Nervous

60

1.00

5.00

2.90

1.19

Afraid

59

1.00

5.00

2.44

1.41

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indigenous persons with insecure attachment styles will tend to be high in NA compared to Indigenous Australian persons with secure attachment styles. An independent samples t test was performed. Contrary to expectations individuals with secure attachment tend to have higher NA scores (N = 7, M = 13.14, SD = 5.6) than those with insecure attachment styles (N = 29, M = 11.66, SD = 3.53). The result is not significant (t(34) = .89, p = .38) and is unreliable (because of the small numbers within each group, and the large deviation in the insecure attachment group).

Indigenous Australian persons with insecure attachment styles will tend to have developed EMS in one or more of the domains of disconnection, impaired autonomy, or overvigilance and inhibition. An independent samples t test was performed. Table 3 shows the differences in means in secure and insecure attachment groups.

Table 3

Mean Scores for EMS Domains Across Secure/Insecure Attachment

 

Attachment Style

Number

Mean

Std. Deviation

Disconnection/Rejection

Secure

8

2.03

.72

 

Insecure

33

2.38

1.33

Autonomy/Performance

Secure

8

2.06

1.08

 

Insecure

33

2.04

1.28

Overvigilance/Inhibition

Secure

8

3.31

1.49

 

Insecure

33

2.94

1.28

 

Contrary to expectations, no significant differences were found between secure/insecure attachment styles in the domains of disconnection/rejection (t(39) = .73, p = .470)., autonomy/performance (t(39) = .50, p = .960), or overvigilance/inhibition (t(39) = .72, p = .477). Again, the results are limited to the quality of the materials and small group sizes (i.e., attachment style groupings).

Indigenous Australian persons high in NA will tend to have difficulties in identifying feelings. An independent samples t test was performed. Table 4 shows the differences in means in DIF/no DIF groups.

Table 4

Means NA Sores in DIF/No DIF Groups

 

 

Number

Mean

Std. Deviation

NA Total

No DIF

27

10.56

3.96

 

DIF

25

13.76

4.26

 

As expected, mean differences in NA were found between DIF/no DIF groups and they were significant, (t(50) = 2.8, p = .007). Indigenous people high in NA tend to have difficulties in identifying their feelings. Another striking result is that nearly half the sample reported difficulties in identifying their emotions.

Intercorrelations between the measures of NA, DIF, insecure attachment style, and EMS will identify a four-factor latent variable EM. Factor analysis is the method of choice for interpreting self-reporting questionnaires (Williams, Onsman, & Brown, 2010). An EFA was performed to summarise the structure of the variables and identify the underlying latent variable (Hills, 2011), EM. A three-factor solution was produced, partially supporting the hypothesis. The model accounted for 52.98% of the variance. Communalities for all items were above .38. The scree plot lacked a definitive cut-point, maybe due to the small sample size and the low ratio of variables (9) to factors (3). However, the analysis fulfilled the requirement of having at least five participants per variable, but not the ideal of having a minimum of 100 (Hills, 2011). Some claim that a sample size of between 50 and 100 is adequate to perform a factor analysis (Sapnas, & Zeller, 2002).

The preferred fitting method for EFA is maximum likelihood (if the assumption of multivariate normality is not violated) as it allows for the computation of a range of indexes that calculate the goodness of fit of the statistical model with the actual sample (Fabrigar, Wegener, MacCallum & Strahan, 1999). As the factors were assumed to be related, an oblique rotation (Promax) that allows correlations between the factors (Francis, 2013), was used to interpret the data and achieve a simple structure.

The final analysis produced a Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of .692 indicating that a mediocre proportion of variance, among variables, is common variance suitable for factor analysis. The Bartlett’s Test was significant (χ2(36) = 149.34, p <.001), indicating significant correlations in the data set (Francis, 2013). The pattern matrix, with simple structure, is shown in Table 5, item correlations are shown in Table 6, correlations between factors are shown in Table 7, and descriptive statistics for the 10-item EM scale in Table 8. Only 25.00% of residuals between observed and reproduced correlations were above .05, indicating a good model fit for the solution. Additionally, the goodness of fit test was not significant, χ2(12) = 14.11, p = .293, demonstrating that there was no significant difference between what the model predicts and what was found in the sample (Francis, 2013).  

Table 5

Pattern Matrix and Communalities for a three Factor EM Solution with Oblique Rotation (Promax)

Item

Factor1

Factor2

Factor3

Communality

EMS 5: Do you believe that there is something wrong with you and that you are unlovable?

.92

 

 

.83

EMS 3: Do you expect to be treated badly by others, such as being abused, mistreated, or cheated on?

.73

 

 

.50

EMS 6: Do you believe that you are inadequate and that you will inevitably fail?

.72

 

 

.63

NA upset: Indicate the way you generally feel upset.

 

.70

 

.59

NA ashamed: Indicate the way you generally feel ashamed.

 

.67

 

.41

NA hostile: Indicate the way you generally feel hostile.

 

.64

 

.38

DIF 4: I am often puzzled by sensations in my body.

 

 

.73

.53

DIF 2: I have physical sensations that even doctors don’t understand.

 

 

.69

.48

DIF 6: I don’t know what’s going on inside me.

 

 

.57

.41

NB. All coefficients are sorted by size and small coefficients are suppressed.

Table 6

Bivariate Correlations for the EM Scale

 

EMS 5

EMS 3

EMS 6

NA Upset

NA Ashamed

NA Hostile

DIF 4

DIF 2

DIF 6

EMS 5

1.00

.63**

.69**

.34**

.13

.16

.27*

.31*

.16

EMS 3

.63**

1.00

.53**

.20

.05

.03

.18

.24

.18

EMS 6

.69**

.53**

1.00

.39**

.35**

.20

.25

.14

.20

NA Upset

.34**

.20

.39**

1.00

.43**

.52**

.23

.13

.35**

NA Ashamed

.13

.05

.35**

.43**

1.00

.40**

.16

-.00

.23

NA Hostile

.16

.03

.20

.52**

.40**

1.00

.02

.21

.15

DIF 4

.27*

.18

.25

.23

.16

.02

1.00

.50**

.45**

DIF 2

.31*

.24

.14

.13

-.00

.21

.50**

1.00

.37**

DIF 6

.16

.18

.20

.35**

.23

.15

.45**

.37**

1.00

NB. * p < .05, **p < .01

Table 7

Correlations Between Factors

Factor

1

2

3

1

1.00

 

 

2

.371

1.00

 

3

.387

.327

1.00

 

Table 8

Descriptive Statistics for the EM Scale (N = 64)

 

No. of items

M (SD)

Eigenvalue

Cronbach’s α

Factor 1

3

2.04 (.01)

3.23

.83

Factor 2

3

2.23 (.57)

1.52

.71

Factor 3

3

2.79 (.08)

1.39

.70

 

Table 8 summarises the results of the EFA. Indigenous Australians scoring high on EMS 5, 3 and 6, score high in factor 1 – the belief of being unlovable and inadequate whilst expecting the worst in other people. Factor 2 is a measure of negative affect. A high score indicates generally feeling upset, hostile and ashamed. Factor 3 represents an inability to interpret the meaning of internal sensations. A high score indicates deficits in somatic perception.

Table 9 gives an alternate solution with an orthogonal rotation (Varimax). Orthogonal solutions do not account for correlations between items, and may exaggerate the unique contribution of non-genuine factors that are correlated with actual factors. In the alternate solution, the scree plot gave little indication of the factor solution, the model accounted for only 49.33% of the variance, and correlations were found between the factors – so it was discarded. Other statistics: The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure was .653, Bartlett’s Test significant (χ2(45) = 167.21, p <.001), and 31.00% of residuals between observed and reproduced correlations were above .05.   

Table 9

Rotated Factor Matrix and Communalities for a three Factor EM Solution with Orthogonal Rotation

Item

Factor1

Factor2

Factor3

Communality

EMS 3: Do you expect to be treated badly by others, such as being abused, mistreated, or cheated on?

.92

 

 

.86

EMS 5: Do you believe that there is something wrong with you and that you are unlovable?

.63

 

 

.49

Avoidant: “I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.”

.61

 

 

.42

Anxious-ambivalent: “I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or won't want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away.”

.59

 

 

.36

NA upset. Indicate the way you generally feel upset.

 

.79

 

.68

NA hostile. Indicate the way you generally feel hostile.

 

.65

 

.43

NA ashamed. Indicate the way you generally feel ashamed.

 

.64

 

.30

DIF 4: I am often puzzled by sensations in my body.

 

 

.76

.60

DIF 2: I have physical sensations that even doctors don’t understand.

 

 

.60

.41

DIF 6: I don’t know what’s going on inside me.

 

 

.55

.39

NB. All coefficients are sorted by size and small coefficients are suppressed

Table 10

Bivariate Correlations for the Orthogonal Rotation

 

NA Upset

NA Hostile

NA Ashamed

EMS 3

EMS 5

Avoid

Anxious

DIF 6

DIF 4

DIF 2

NA Upset

1.00

.52**

.43**

.20

.34**

.10

.09

.35**

.23

.13

NA Hostile

.52**

1.00

.40**

.03

.16

.13

-.14

.15

.02

.21

NA Ashamed

.43**

.40**

1.00

.05

.13

.08

.12

.23

.16

-.00

EMS 3

.20

.03

.05

1.00

.63**

.57**

.52**

.18

.18

.24

EMS 5

.34**

.16

.13

.63**

1.00

.30*

.33*

.16

.27*

.31*

Avoidant

.10

.13

.08

.57**

.30*

1.00

.60**

.30*

.21

.27*

Anxious

.09

-.14

.12

.52**

.33*

.60**

1.00

.30*

.10

.08

DIF 6

.35**

.15

.23

.18

.15

.30*

.30*

1.00

.45**

.37**

DIF 4

.23

.02

.16

.18

.27*

.21

.10

.45**

1.00

.50**

DIF 2

.13

.21

-.00

.24

.31*

.27*

.08

.37**

.50**

1.00

NB. * p < .05, **p < .01

Discussion

The main findings are that NA is significantly high among the Indigenous participants, that 48% of those who completed the DIF subscale were found to have DIF, and that NA is positively associated with DIF. As the measure of negative affect increases, that increase is associated with a greater difficulty in those individuals being able to identify what emotions they are feeling. Also associated with the elevation of affect, and the inability to interpret it, are EMS. These findings were expected.

Findings that insecure attachment styles were neither associated with higher NA nor EMS, were unexpected. Hence the description of EM is narrowed to include beliefs of being unlovable and inadequate whilst expecting the worst in other people. These beliefs are associated with a maladjusted affect regulation that causes individuals to feel upset, ashamed, and/or hostile. These emotions evade the perception of the individual because of their inability to identify bodily sensations, and, therefore their feelings.

Interpreting the Findings

As expected it was found that levels of NA, in the Moora Indigenous community, are significantly higher than in the Australian population. Individuals with NA tend to experience unmanageable negative emotions (Watson & Clarke, 1984). Those pervasive feelings affect perceptions of self and other-concept, and of the world (Watson & Clark, 1984; Watson et al., 1988). The construct of EM affirms that additional factors affect those negative perceptions.

The lowest scoring item was ashamed which is not identical with affect, in Aboriginal culture. This item may have been underscored.

Feeling upset had the highest I-PANAS-SF mean score for an individual item. Taken on face-value, being emotionally down/unhappy/distressed (i.e., NA_upset) contributes the most to being habitually open to negativity. Not surprisingly, this distressful state shared significant associations with feelings of hostility and of being ashamed, in addition to not knowing what was happening interiorly (DIF 6) (i.e., not knowing why they were upset), and believing themselves to be a failure because something was wrong with them (EMS 6).

The associations of these negative feelings, the inability to recognize those feelings, and biased patterns of thought (i.e., something is wrong with me), point also to an inability to separate thought from feeling. Hence, these association describe a vulnerability in affect regulation (and a potentially volatile affect state), and an emotional state that limits personal freedom. If no clear separation of reasoning and affect occurs, an individual can neither justify their emotional state, nor act with an intention free of affect (i.e. they will not know why they are acting, nor be fully culpable for their actions). Certainly, there can be no conscious appraisal involved in the processing of emotion. The question of the mismanagement of NA then becomes: Is this vulnerability occurring at the associative level, or at the schematic level (Power & Dalgeish, 1997, 2008), or possibly through the interaction of both?

The second point concerning NA is that this preliminary research did not include an assessment of the relationship between stress and NA. As NA levels are significantly high in the population, a pathway between these variables may be explored in future research. For example, Moyle (1995) found that NA moderates stress – i.e., in stressful situations an individual’s level of NA regulates their response to those situations (Moyle, 1995). Specifically, trait NA may render that individual vulnerable to the stressful environments found in Indigenous families (Zubrick et al., 2014). Other factors to be considered in this stress-diathesis model, are EMS, DIF (and potentially, alexithymia).  

Unexpectedly, this model does not include insecure attachment styles. No significant relationships were found between insecure attachment (one of four hypothesised factors of EM) and NA, nor between insecure attachment and EMS. These findings, specific to hypotheses two and three, are discussed next.

First, although insecurely attached persons have been found to use regulation strategies that emphasise negative emotions (Besharat & Shahidi, 2014), levels of NA were higher in those individuals with secure attachment styles. This unexpected result may be explained by a closer look at the secure group (N = 7, M = 13.14, SD = 5.6). Participants 44 and 63 score 19 and 20 respectively – excluding these participants, the mean NA score is 10.60 which is in conformity with the hypothesis. Additionally, only 41 (8 with secure attachment, 33 with insecure attachment) of 64 participants were assigned an attachment grouping, indicating either the grouping has little meaning to the participants, or defects in the materials used to assign attachment styles. Hence, the result is both insignificant and unreliable.

Second, although previous research indicated a relationship between EMS and insecure attachment, no significant results were found. This is likely also due to a defect in the materials that resulted in low group sizes, low statistical power, and no guarantee of a normal distribution. This result may be redundant, however. The results of the discarded orthogonal rotation (cf. hypothesis 6) in conjunction with the correlation between the factors (see Table 7), indicate insecure attachment (the discarded factor) mediates EMS. Attachment style is a conduit in the relationship between EMS and EM. This can be argued because (i) the orthogonal solution shares correlations among the factors (which it should not) (ii) the significant correlations between the EMS 3 and insecure attachment styles (Table 10) indicate that insecure attachment mediates the expectation of being mistreated (EMS 3) and EM whilst not, of itself, being a factor of EM.

The above results concerning secure/insecure attachment style (hypotheses 2 and 3) have little statistical power. When considering their interpretation, this must be kept in mind. The most unreliable results are from comparisons between secure and insecure groups. However, the attachment items retain their integrity when correlated with other items, as avoidant and anxious-ambivalent attachment are assessed on a 5-point scale. This scale is more meaningful than attachment groupings because of the high proportion of those not assigned to either secure or insecure groups.

These results must also be interpreted in light of previous research. It was anticipated that either repressing (avoidant strategy) NA, and/or experiencing NA as distress (anxious-ambivalent strategy), may explain the origin of the inability to manage negative emotions in Indigenous Australian communities. The point of difference is that Besharat and Shahidi (2014) found that insecurely attached persons use regulation strategies that emphasise negative emotions, which is not identical with trait NA. And Simard et al. (2011) found that insecure attachment was only a general vulnerability factor for EMS. Elements of those working models were associated with EMS, and not a specific attachment style. In conclusion, attachment style does not seem to be a significant factor in this research.

The most controversial finding is that 48% of those who completed the DIF subscale were found to have DIF. It was imbedded in the expected finding that NA is positively associated with DIF. Indigenous people high in NA tend to have difficulties in identifying their feelings. This finding is controversial as it suggests nearly half the Aboriginal population in regional Western Australia have alexithymia (as the DIF subscale is predictive of alexithymia). Second, this would also suggest the etiology is a deficient emotional, social, intellectual etc. development. For example, the results support Kreitler’s (2002) theory that alexithymia is a defect in the self-regulation of affect due to deficient emotional learning in childhood. However, physicalist theories (e.g., neurodevelopmental disorder) of alexithymia would not be supported.

 

 

 

Limitations

Were a ...

Conclusions

blaaa, bla bla

....to be continued!