Predicting individual differences in autonomy-connectedness: the role of body awareness, alexithymia, and assertiveness



Autonomy-connectedness is the capacity for being on one's own as well as for satisfactorily engaging in interpersonal relationships. Associations have been shown between autonomy-connectedness components (self-awareness, sensitivity to others, and the capacity for managing new situations) and various indices of psychopathology. Both in a theoretical sense as well as for enhancing treatment and prevention, it is relevant to identify which factors most powerfully predict individual differences in autonomy-connectedness: body awareness, alexithymia, or assertiveness. The present study examined this question in a clinical sample of women who were diagnosed as having autonomy problems (N=52) and in a female nonclinical community sample (N=59). In line with expectations, assertiveness was a strong predictor of (all three components of) autonomy-connectedness, as was emotionalizing, one of the alexithymia-components, but the latter in an opposite direction than we had expected: the higher an individual's ability to emotionalize was, the less self-aware and capable to manage new situations that person was, and the more sensitive to others. Cognitive alexithymia contributed to self-awareness as well as to the capacity for managing new situations, and one of the components of body awareness appeared to predict capacity for managing new situations. Our results indicate that assertiveness training and the enhancement of emotion regulation are important elements of autonomy-connectedness targeted interventions. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 64:747–765, 2008.