Personality attributes related to bronchial asthma in the adult male.
Glasser, Alan James
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The question whether various psychosomatic disorders such as bronchial asthma are associated with certain personality characteristics is at present not decided conclusively. To date, psychoanalytic formulations of the asthmatic's personality have tended to dominate psychological thinking on the subject. The psychoanalytically-oriented study of Alexander and French is perhaps the best known and most thorough psychological study to date on the asthmatic personality. They investigated 27 cases from periods ranging from two to 43 months, by means of dream interpretation and staff discussion of analytic interviews. The common problem was said to be a "basic insecurity and more or less intense need for parental love and protection." When the nurturant relationship is threatened an attack may be precipitated. The present study took as its general hypothesis the Alexander and French position that a psychological fact in the personality structure of the asthmatic is a deep, unsatisfied dependency need. This general statement was made testable by applying psychoanalytic theory to deduce logically the consequences of this need. By means of readily identified personality attributes derived from the general hypothesis the raw data was made quantifiable. The existence of unsatisfied dependency needs, then, may lead to certain personality characteristics or attributes in the adult asthmatic. One of these is the exaggerated expression of dependency reactions--the need for security is great and becomes a search for nurturance and a fear of loss of love. A second attribute which is closely allied to dependency reactions is said to be psychosexual immaturity--confusion in sex role. Early, partial, passive identification with the mother, and repression of sexuality were means of retaining her love and have persisted to some degree in the adult personality. Finally, we may speak of the attribute of repressed hostility and denial of aggressive feelings and actions. Hostile feelings must be bottled up, for to give vent to them would be to lose the love of the mother or mother surrogate, or be forced into an independence for which the asthmatic is ill prepared. Hypothesis One: A significantly greater number of reactions indicative of dependency will be elicited from the asthmatic group as compared to the control group. Hypothesis One tends to be supported. The asthmatics in the overall comparison, throughout the battery, gave significantly more dependency reactions (Chi Square=8.10, p<0.01). Hypothesis Two: A significantly greater number of reactions indicative of confusion of sex role will be elicited from the asthmatic group as compared to the control group. Hypothesis Two tends to be supported. The asthmatics in the overall comparison, throughout the battery, gave significantly more reactions indicative of confusion of sexual role (Chi Square = 16.0, p<0.01). Hypothesis Three: A significantly greater number of reactions indicative of repression of hostility and denial of aggression will be elicited from the asthmatic group as compared to the control group. Hypothesis Three tends to be supported. There was a significant difference in reactions indicative of repressed hostility throughout the battery (Chi Square=3.92, p =<0.05). The general hypothesis taken from Alexander and French tends to be supported. Crucial to this was the necessity for finding a significantly larger number of dependency reactions in the asthmatic. The posited confusion in sex role was also found. Finally, group differences were found to exist with respect to repressed hostility. In addition, the far more immature manner in which the asthmatics reacted to hostility-evoking situations suggested further possible personality differences in this latter area. In considering the results one must bear in mind the limitations set up by the compositions of the groups compared. Also it cannot be emphasized too strongly the results are in terms of group trends, there being individual overlap in each direction. The important question of constitutional differences in emotional balance and predisposition to allergy as etiologically significant has not been touched on in the present experiment. Such research is essential in the attempt to establish the relationship between interpersonal, intra-psychic, and somatic factors.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University