Date of Award

Summer 1997

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Committee Director

Glenn Shean

Committee Member

Louis Janda

Committee Member

Ellen Rose

Committee Member

Deborah Green

Committee Member

Joy Kannarkut


This study compared body image, patterns of coping, and the relationship between these factors in subjects with and without a reported background of childhood incest. Self-report measures of personal experience (Relevant Variable Questionnaire and the Assessment of Coping Interview), body image (the Human Figure Drawing Test (HFDT) and the Body Image Assessment (BIA)), and coping (the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES), the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECOM) Coping Scale, and the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90-R)) were administered individually to twenty-two women with reported incest histories and an equal number of women with no reported history of sexual or physical abuse. Significant between-groups differences indicated that individuals reporting incest were characterized by greater general distress, increased body image distortion, and greater use of dissociation, compared to non-abused subjects. Individuals reporting incest also exhibited differences related to body image in childhood, including less physical activity and mild cognitive impairment, reflected in drawings of self. Additionally, preliminary analysis showed an interaction between body image and coping styles, such that individuals with greater body distortion showed preference for a less advanced coping style (Substitution), while those with less body distortion and/or no history of incest manifested a preference for an advanced, cognitively based coping style (Replacement). Physical force in conjunction with incest was not associated with differences in body image distortion or coping patterns. These results suggest several avenues for further research of clinical intervention with individuals with a history of incest, including attachment and body-based interventions in childhood and/or adulthood.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).