Self-complexity as a potential cognitive buffer among abused women

Jennifer A. Steinberg*, Suzanne L. Pineles, Wendi L. Gardner, Susan Mineka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Low self-esteem and depression are common among domestic violence victims (e.g., Orava, McLeod, & Sharpe, 1996). Physical and verbal abuse may reinforce victims' sense of helplessness by stripping away their real social roles. Linville (1985, 1987) hypothesized that individuals who maintain high self-complexity (i.e., many roles within their self-concept and little overlap among them) are buffered against affective reactions to stressful events. Using Linville's measure, we investigated self-complexity among abused and nonabused women in a cross-sectional design. Given the restrictive nature of domestic violence, we predicted a negative relationship between abuse (physical and verbal) and self-complexity. We also hypothesized that abused women with high self-complexity would show greater self-esteem and lower levels of depression. Our findings show a negative relationship between amount of physical violence and self-complexity, and are consistent with a buffering effect of high self-complexity for low self-esteem. Clinical implications for domestic violence are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-579
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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