The Effect of Resilience, Level of Ego Development, and Internal Parental Representations on the Relationship between Potentially Traumatic Events and Symptomology

Meredith Mahoney, Pace University


Following a potentially traumatic event (i.e., an event, either witnessed or experienced, that may or may not lead to a traumatic reaction), an individual may or may not experience the clinical symptomatology commonly associated with traumatic experiences. These include somatic complaints, anxiety, anxiety related disorders, depression, schizophrenia, borderline features, alcohol problems, drug problems, suicidal ideation, non-support, and paranoia. Many factors come into play to determine who emerges from a potentially traumatic event unscathed and who develops clinical symptomatology. ^ The current study examined level of ego development, type of internalized parent representations, and level of resilience which may have an impact on whether adults experience symptoms following a potentially traumatic event. The hypotheses were as follows: 1) the level of symptomatology reported by individuals who experienced a potentially traumatic event would relate to their level of ego development, 2) positive parental representations would correlate with lower levels of symptomatology for those who had a potentially traumatic event and inversely negative parental representations would correlate with higher levels of symptomatology, and 3) as resilience increased, symptomatology would decrease for those who have experienced or witnessed a trauma. In addition, three exploratory questions were explored to examine the relationship between: 1) internal parental representations and resilience, 2) level of ego development and resilience, and 3) internal parental representations and level of ego development. ^ Correlations, analyses of variance, and multiple regression analyses were performed to examine the relationship between potentially traumatic events, parental representations, ego development, resilience, and symptomology. Results found no correlation between levels of ego development and symptomology, resilience, or internal parental representations for those who witnessed or experienced a potentially traumatic event. ^ Strong relationships were found between facilitating individuation and intrusive/possessive parental figures and symptomology. Parents who were perceived by their adult children as facilitating individuation were likely to have decreased symptomology. When parents were perceived as intrusive and possessive, their adult children were likely to have increased levels of symptomology. Mixed support existed between symptomology and parents who were perceived as self-objects, protected/repaired, and narcissistic/hostile. Adult children of parents perceived as weak and dependent were minimally likely to show decreased symptomology. Strong support was found for hypothesis three which demonstrated support for previous literature finding increased levels of resilience were associated with decreased symptomology. ^ Lastly minimal support was found to suggest relationship between parental representations and resilience. Fathers perceived as self-objects who facilitated individuation had adult children with increased overall resilience and acceptance of self and life. Mothers perceived as needing repair and protection were associated with decreased overall resilience and acceptance of self and life. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Mahoney, Meredith, "The Effect of Resilience, Level of Ego Development, and Internal Parental Representations on the Relationship between Potentially Traumatic Events and Symptomology" (2013). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3570709.



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