What are they up to? Developmental pathways of paranoid thinking: an analogue study.
D Clin Psy thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Introduction: Recent evidence points to a continuum of paranoid thinking in the normal population. Some studies have proposed direct relationships between trauma and paranoia, and others have suggested that attachment theory may be useful in mapping pathways from early life experience to paranoia. Most of these studies have highlighted broad ‘cognitive’ mechanisms. However, attachment theory highlights the consequences of early childhood experience with a primary caregiver for affect regulation and mentalising. Methods: A total of 722 participants (all University students, 456/266 women/men, median age = 23 years) took part in an online questionnaire-based study. Participants completed measures of paranoia, early life experience, attachment anxiety/avoidance, positive and negative affect, empathy and social comparison. Results: Regression analyses highlighted a role of early life experience, affect and empathy in predicting paranoia. Structural Equation Modeling revealed a more complex double mediation between early life experience and paranoia. Attachment anxiety/avoidance only had a strong predictive effect for paranoia when taking positive and negative affect into account. Empathy was shown to mediate the relationship between early life experience and paranoia. Conclusions: The results highlight possible developmental pathways to paranoia. Both developmental pathways implicating affect regulation and mentalisation are relevant to paranoia in a non-clinical sample.
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