Domain-specific cognitive complexity in survivors of child abuse

Christopher Russell Erbes, Stephanie Lewis Harter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This study investigated the effects of abusive family environments on domain-specific cognitive complexity and extremity among college students (N = 81). Those from abusive and nonabusive families did not differ in cognitive complexity for the domains of abusive families, nonabusive families, or the self. Analyses did suggest that a history of sexual abuse predicted greater levels of self-complexity and that complexity overall differed between abusive and nonabusive domains. The findings raised questions concerning specific aspects of Linville's (1982, 1985, 1987; Linville & Jones, 1980) theory of cognitive complexity, particularly the link between experience and complexity. They also have more general implications for research in cognitive complexity, including issues of definition and measurement. Comparisons of current findings to other recent research suggest that abuse survivors may be distinguished by the content rather than the complexity of their constructions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-237
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Constructivist Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1999


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