Psychosomatic potentiality and its relationship to ego development and self-representation

Nancy A Curcio, Pace University


The present study explored psychosomatic phenomena by examining the relationship of self-reported somatic complaints to ego development and self-representation in a nonclinical adolescent population. The study was conducted with 246 adolescents, 98 males and 148 females, ages 14 through 18 years. The adolescents' scores on somatic items of the Youth Self Report (YSR) (Achenbach, 1982) were examined with categories of ego development (Washington University Sentence Completion Test (SCT) Loevinger & Wessler, 1970) and dimensions of self-representation (Pace Profile: Positions in Adolescence (PIA), Hart 1988). The central hypotheses predicted relationships among self-reported somatic complaints, ego category, gender and self-representation. Results of analyses confirmed the hypotheses that Ego Development Category explains self-reported somatic complaints. A trend analysis affirmed a significant quadratic component for boys and for girls, demonstrating a curvilinear relationship between ego category and somatic complaints. Somatic complaints were reported with greater frequency by the Preconformist and Postconformist subjects. The results also supported the hypothesis that the self-representation positions would be related to the frequency of somatic complaints. The overall relationships were such that the positions more reflective of pathology correlated positively with somatic complaints and those which reflect health correlated negatively with somatic complaints. The results supported the existence of gender differences in the frequency of reported somatic complaints. The findings suggest that females report more somatic complaints than do their male counterparts. Post hoc tests revealed that the items contributing most strongly to the differences were items associated with the menstrual cycle. The interactive model which proposed that the relationship between somatic complaints and self-representation would vary at different levels of ego development within and between the sexes was not supported by statistical analyses. However, subsequent correlational analyses revealed significant relationships between self-reported somatic complaints and self-representation positions at the various ego categories. The findings were discussed in relation to contemporary psychoanalytic theory. Additionally, practical implications for the identification and referral of psychosomatic adolescents were addressed.

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Recommended Citation

Curcio, Nancy A, "Psychosomatic potentiality and its relationship to ego development and self-representation" (1992). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9300153.



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