Differences in Early Maladaptive Schemas between a Sample of Young Adult Female Substance Abusers and a Non-clinical Comparison Group



Early maladaptive schemas, defined as cognitive and behavioural patterns of viewing oneself and the world that cause considerable distress, are increasingly being recognized as an important underlying correlate of mental health problems. Recent research has begun to examine early maladaptive schemas among individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse. Unfortunately, there is limited research on whether substance abusers score higher on early maladaptive schemas than non-clinical controls. Thus, the current study examined whether a sample of young adult female substance abuse treatment seekers (n = 180) scored higher than a non-clinical group of female college students (n = 284) on early maladaptive schemas. Results demonstrated that the substance abuse group scored higher than the non-clinical group on 16 of the 18 early maladaptive schemas. In addition, a number of differences in early maladaptive schemas were large in effect size. Implications of these findings for future research and substance abuse treatment programmes are discussed. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Key Practitioner Message

  • Young adult female substance users have a number of early maladaptive schemas that may be contributing to the onset and maintenance of substance use.
  • Findings from the current study suggest that early maladaptive schemas are more prevalent among young adult female substance abusers than a non-clinical control group, even after controlling for demographic differences between groups.
  • The treatment of substance abuse among young adults should consider targeting early maladaptive schemas.