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Relationships Between IP Qualified Early Memories and Specific Coping Mechanisms in Hungarian University Students

Edit Ferencz Ph.D.,

University of Veszprem, Dept.of Paedagogical Psychology, 

Veszprem, Hungary

Janos Csorba M.D., Ph.D.,

Univ.of Sciences „Eotvos Lorant”,

Faculty of Special Education, Dept. of Peadagogical  Psychology,


In the following lecture I would like to give a condensed and brief summary of the consequences of the work carried out by my collague Edit Ferencz’ Ph.D.This work is about the relationships between memories from early life and some characteristic coping mechanisms of the individuum.Her contribution in approaching the inter-relationships of recalled memories and individual coping mechanisms is unique from three aspects, a) that early memories are regarded as displays of individual life style identified by the IP interview method of Victor Louis, b) the coping attitudes of the subjects are measured by means of a new Psychological Immune System test used by a leading Hungarian psychologist Olah.This test is used with accordance to the modern transactionalistic theory of Richard Lazarus about coping dimensions,  and finally, c) coping attitudes are analyzed per memory elements as they emerged in memory vignettes and identified by means of the IP interview.

Alfred Adler is presumably a remarkable forerunner of the modern coping theory as his worldview and work on clarifying one’s life style has several implications related to the coping research. Courageous vs. threatened life style of pupils, compensative work of psychical structure to overcome somatic and psychical deficits, transgression, social interest etc. are fragments from his classical work towards the development of a future coping theory.Up until now there are only a few studies dealing with the classical theory of Adler from a modern coping perspective. To understand the dimensionalised approach of Lazarus, let us have a short look on the first slide. Lazarus established 15 separate scales of the Psychological Immune System, each representing a discrete domain of mechanism or of effort individuals attempt to use in order to fight the consequences of stressful situations that have exceeded the resources of the person. The term „optimism” does not need clarification, Self-coherence means that one requires understanding of him/herself and that external events occur for him/her as they expect. Self-control means, that one really controls his/her life further,  „respect of Self” focuses on that, that one likes to honour, care, manage and nurture him/herself physically and spiritually. The coping potential dimensions have 3 branches, the resource management encompasses the monitoring, mobilising and the creating of internal resources, that is, we are sensitive and flexible towards changes in the surrounding world, we are able to actualise our learned abilities and we have creativity to overcome stressful situations. The column social competence refers to abilities to monitor, mobilise and create external, social resources in order to fight new demands. Finally the Self-regulation factor covers such qualities as to remain in synchrony with and continual tracking of aims in order to control ourselves emotionally, to control our impulsivity and to maintain a high level of frustration tolerance.

On the slide 2. it is easy to read the hypotheses, the aims and the design of the study. The research assumes, that memories refer not only to the Unconscious as Freud had thought originally, but has much to do with the life style of the individual mirroring the functions of their character in conjunction with his/her coping strategies. Lots of differences are expected relating to coping mechanisms if subjects with positive, effective, acquisitive life style are compared with and contrasted by clients having less effective life style characteristics.

144 teacher students were enrolled in the study with the mean age of 23 years. The study process had 3 independent procedures. The procedures were perfected independently, as it was important to avoid the influence of one study phase on another. It was imperative that the expectations of researchers should not have an impact on the production of the subjects. In the first phase students were asked to choose one recalled typical memory containing some important familial or individual events of the subject from his/her early life. In the second phase the memory text was examined with the help of aspects from Victor Louis’ interview method identifying discrete elements and qualifying them as reflecting either positive or negative life style events. Because of time pressure we are not in the position to present the interview method of Louis here to its full extent. Allowing for this 2 groups were created for each comparison. It can be seen on slide 3., five aspects were used in estimating the memory text: Activity of Self, presentation of Self, quality of emotions experienced in memory process, changes of feelings from negative to positive ones and vice versa, and finally, positive or negative qualities attributed to mother and sibling(s) that emerged during the memories. In the third separate process, subjects were investigated using items from the Psychological Immune System test, –3 items referred to each coping dimension scale creating a comparable mean value in each column.

With 2 dropout students, data of 142 subjects were used in the statistical workout. Means of dichotomic variables were compared by means of one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with Levene homogeneity test of variance. If Levene test was significant, the results of ANOVA had to be rejected.

On the following slides you see the differences in the coping aspects of the 2 groups contrasted by important memory elements. Participants of group I. identified with positive life style characteristics in collected memories were more likely to use (5.slide) successful impulsivity and frustration control, (6.slide) an optimistic attitude to life, to seek contacts for his/her own interest, and to persist in tracking a task. The subjects of the first group were more likely (7.slide) to respect him/herself and to have realistic feelings of control over his/her life. However, related to the management of internal resources, some interesting unexpected results had been found. Subjects of group II. had an increased level (8.slide) in coping factors, such as the skill to mobilise and create some learned or internal abilities and moreover, group II had been more successful in synchronising the subjects to the changes of external demands.

As you see on the slides, we found in 8 scales of 15,that there is a significant difference in more than half of the scale due to the abilities of group I. Commenting the results (9.slide) the number of significant items are less than expected, but the mechanisms found seem specific ones. We need to pay attention to the fact that dream vignettes are too short to place or represent each coping aspect in their full spectrum. It is striking that, the greater the ability for comparisons, frustration tolerance, optimism, and a good ability to make social contacts seem to reflect on the individuals having a vivid and acquisitive life style. Thus, we were able to demonstrate some specific coping mechanisms by contrasting two groups having two different life styles in the comparisons.

Focusing on the mechanisms those group members who have an unfavourable life style preference, it is striking that mobilisation and creation of internal resources and self-syndronization to external aims show us, that these individuals rely primarily on internal resources. These tools do not belong to the scale of social competence. According to the Louis interview we can regard these coping strategies as being of a presumably higher compensatory nature. These subjects may exert efforts to treat possible harm reflected in negative memories towards to mother or siblings. The striking use of such psychological factors may mirror the lack of social contacts in the life of the subject.

Adlerian theory of Life style has been confirmed by the coping theory. It seems wise to combine life style research with coping studies in the future. The investigation of early memories may be a fruitful place of research in order to approach the study of life style as it refers to the attitudes of individuals by avoiding the usual control of consciousness. When viewing the pathways of how the coping strategies influence the memory process we must be careful to make global impressionistic statements. Probably, there are several indirect psychological ways that coping exerts impact on memory functions, significant associations documented here do not mean direct contacts between the level of coping and memory process.

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