Revitalizing a relational view of obsessive -compulsive disorder: Explicit and implicit measurement of the internal working models of OCD subjects

Michael D Alcee, Fordham University


Despite an abundance of theoretical work, there has been little empirical research on the attachment relationships of OCD subjects. The purpose of this study was to (1) synthesize the work on OCD and relationships using attachment as a meta-theoretical framework and (2) to test the prediction that OC- analogue subjects have a preoccupied attachment style using both implicit and explicit measures. A sample of 224 undergraduate psychology students from Fordham University were divided into three separate groups based on scores on the Obsessive Compulsive Inventory and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory: an OC-analogue group, a high-anxiety group, and a low-anxiety control group. Internal-working-models and attachment concerns were measured explicitly through the Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised Scale and Personal-Styles Inventory. Implicit measurement of working models was achieved through a modification of the Implicit Association Test. It was expected that OC-analogue subjects would show higher sociotropy score and lower autonomy scores when compared to both high and low anxiety controls. It was also hypothesized that both implicit and explicit measures would classify OC-analogue subjects in the preoccupied attachment category in accordance with previous theoretical work. As expected, OC-analogue subjects showed higher sociotropy levels when compared to low-anxiety controls. Contrary to predictions, however, they had significantly higher autonomy scores when compared to low-anxiety controls. After controlling for the perfectionism and control subscale scores, which were highly correlated with OCD symptoms, no significant differences emerged among groups. Overall, these findings suggest that individuals with OCD have excessive concerns about interpersonal relationships and an increased need for autonomy. With respects to the working-models of OC-analogue subjects, findings were mixed. The negative working-model of self prediction was only confirmed by the explicit test. The positive working-model of other prediction, however, was not supported by either measure. Taken together, these data suggest that OCD is associated with both the preoccupied and fearful-avoidant attachment styles. Limitations regarding sample and measurement choices discussed. Future research directions addressed.

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Recommended Citation

Alcee, Michael D, "Revitalizing a relational view of obsessive -compulsive disorder: Explicit and implicit measurement of the internal working models of OCD subjects" (2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3201122.