A clinical validation study of George Kelly's Personal Construct Theory in men with erectile dysfunction

Robert I Mehlman, Fordham University


This study examined the nature and extent of the relationship between George Kelly's Personal Construct Theory (PCT) and the constructs of men dealing with erectile dysfunction (ED) in order to (a) test empirical support for PCT and (b) to supply information about psychological characteristics of men experiencing ED. There have been few studies of the psychological characteristics of men experiencing ED, and none which have used suitable control groups. In a two-phase study of 60 men (30 who had presented for treatment of ED and 30 controls) the first phase showed that men with ED experienced no more psychological distress than controls, and that the level of distress in both groups was no higher than that of a normative group of non-psychiatric adult males as measured by the Global Severity Index (GSI) of Derogatis' Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). However, examination of subscales of the BSI and of construct systems using ipsative measures, the Impgrid developed from PCT, and the Semantic Differential (SD) of Osgood, Suci, and Tannenbaum yielded significant differences between the two groups. Patients showed a tendency to somaticize more, and to be less phobic and/or anxious than the controls. Less identified with their sexuality than were controls, more extreme in their constructions related to sexual behaviors, patients were also more judgmental and less flexible in their construing in general. Using the same groups, a second phase of the study examined correlations between aspects of their construct systems and the GSI. Findings did not support Kelly's hypotheses about successful adaptation and cognitive structuring. There was no documented relationship between numbers of constructs, number of clusters, and superordinacy and psychological distress. In fact, in patients, decreased flexibility and elevated evaluativeness showed a negative correlation with psychological distress, suggesting that a dimension of cognitive rigidity was a successful adaptation to a traumatic event. Findings of this study also have implications for psychoeducational programs. The study showed that a significant number of men did not connect health problems with ED.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Cognitive therapy|Personality|Physiological psychology

Recommended Citation

Mehlman, Robert I, "A clinical validation study of George Kelly's Personal Construct Theory in men with erectile dysfunction" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9923437.