Self-esteem and interpersonal functioning in psychiatric outpatients


Jofrid Bjørkvik, Stord DPS, Psykiatrisk poliklinikk, PO Box 4000, N-5409 Stord, Norway. Tel: (+47) 53 49 12 10; e-mail:


This study explored associations between self-esteem and interpersonal functioning in a one-year clinic cohort of psychiatric outpatients (n= 338). At intake, patients completed questionnaires measuring self-esteem, interpersonal problems, interpersonal style, and general symptomatic distress. They were also diagnosed according to the ICD-10. Interpersonal behaviour was measured along the agency and communion dimensions of the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems – Circumplex [IIP-C]. The results show that lower self-esteem was associated with higher levels of interpersonal problems in general. Further, lower self-esteem was first and foremost linked to frustrated agentic motives, as measured by the IIP-C. Hence, the study concludes that fostering patient agency should be considered as an important goal in psychotherapy. Furthermore, the analyses revealed an interaction effect of agency and communion on self-esteem, indicating a need for balancing the two motive dimensions. Finally, some questions are raised concerning the interpretation of the IIP-C subscales in general.