Object relations in personality disorder: development of the "Problematic Object Representation Scales" (PORS) for the AAI

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Over the past years, there has been an increasing interest in assessing object relations and studying the relationship between problematic object representations and different types of psychological disturbance. These efforts have emphasised the importance of the representation of interpersonal relationships in personality pathology. Representations of interpersonal relationships are given particular emphasis by the Attachment Theory (e.g., Bowlby, 1980/88), which highlights the importance of early relationships with caregivers in personality development. In fact, many patients with personality disorder exhibit significant difficulties in intimate relationships and can therefore be seen as having some degree of attachment disorder. The present study describes the development and reliability analysis of the "Problematic Object Representation Scales" (PORS) to be applied to the Adult Attachment Interview Protocol (George et al., 1996), in an effort to integrate object relations and personality disorder research. Levels of PORS are compared across different diagnostic groups revealing that personality disordered patients exhibit higher levels of "inconsistency", "inappropriate affect valence", and "disturbance of thinking" when compared to patients with other disorders and normal controls. Results also reveal significant associations between some of the PORS and other measures of personality functioning (e.g., Reflective Functioning, Fonagy et al., 1998 Revised Adult Personality Functioning Assessment, Hill & Stein, 2000) and early adversity (Childhood Experiences of Care and Abuse, Bifulco et al., 1994), although these associations seem mostly accounted for by the presence of personality disorder. Hence, the PORS appear to be a reliable method of assessing problematic object representations through the AAI and some of the scales are able to differentiate diagnostic groups on the basis of their object representations. Conclusions are drawn regarding the potential usefulness of the PORS in research and clinical contexts.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University College London
  • Target, Mary, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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