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Curr Psychol (2012) 31:386392 DOI 10.


Structure of the Personality Beliefs Questionnaire-ShortForm: Smallest Space Analysis

V. K. Kumar & Rita Ryan & Kathryn Wagner

Published online: 14 November 2012 # Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Abstract Butler et al. (Cognitive Therapy and Research 31:357370, 2007) developed the Personality Beliefs Questionnaire-Short Form (PBQ-SF), from an earlier longer version (Beck and Beck 1991), to assess the types of schemata associated with different personality disorders. This study explored the structure of PBQ-SF using Guttmans Smallest Space Analysis. Participants were 228 students who volunteered for the study. The two facets (each with two subsets) suggested by the analysis to characterize the structure of the personality disorder subscales were Ego Concerns (self-enhancement versus self-protection) and Control Concerns (feelings lack of control versus need for control). Clinical implications of the findings include targeting major dysfunctional thinking, as suggested by the aforementioned two facets and their subsets, in the treatment of personality disorders. Keywords Personality disorders schemata . Smallest space analysis This study explored the structure of schemata associated with the Personality Belief Questionnaire-Short Form (PBQ-SF) personality disorders subscales using Guttmans (1982) Smallest Space Analysis (SSA). Butler et al. (2007) developed the PBQ-SF from an earlier version of 126 items (Beck and Beck 1991; Beck et al. 2001) based on dysfunctional schemata (beliefs, rules, assumptions, and strategies) associated with
V. K. Kumar (*) : K. Wagner Department of Psychology, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, PA 19383, USA e-mail: R. Ryan Center for Cognitive Therapy, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3535 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3309, USA e-mail: Present Address: K. Wagner Brandywine Counseling and Community Services, 24 Brookhill Drive, Newark, DE 19702, USA e-mail:

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the various personality disorders as conceptualized by Beck et al. (1990). The PBQSF contains 9 subscales, based on sets of independent items, for measuring dysfunctional thinking associated with Avoidant, Dependent, Passive-Aggressive, Obsessive Compulsive, Antisocial, Narcissistic, Histrionic, Schizoid, and Paranoid personality disorders. Later work (Butler et al. 2002; see also Bhar et al. 2008) identified a set of 7 items from the 65 to form the Borderline personality disorder. There has been one exploratory factor analytic study (Trull, Goodwin et al. 1993) of the longer PBQ with 9 subscales. Trull et al. (1993) reported that although the pattern of loadings was difficult to interpret, they identified two factors to underlie the 9 subscales: (a) interpersonal dominance (with highest loadings on the Antisocial and Narcissistic scales), and (b) anxious attachment (with highest loadings on the Avoidant and Dependent Scales). In contrast, the DSM IV (American Psychiatric Association 1994, pp. 629630) proposed three taxonomic categories for personality disorders; these are (a) Cluster A is characterized by odd and eccentric behaviors including the Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal personality disorders; (b) Cluster B is characterized by dramatic, emotional, or erratic behaviors, including the Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, and Narcissistic personality disorders; and, (c) Custer C is characterized by anxious or fearful behaviors including the Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorders. Butler et al. (2007) reflected on the possible structure of schemata of the PBQ-SF subscales by examining the pattern of correlations of the ipsatized subscale scores (obtained by subtracting the mean of the 9 subscales from the individual subscale scores) with the other scales used for construct validation. Based on this analysis, they inferred two subtypes: (a) anxious-fearful (Avoidant, Dependent, and ObsessiveCompulsive) (b) externalizing and self-aggrandizing (Antisocial and Narcissism). Given the dearth of studies on the structural aspects of the PBQ subscales, we decided to examine the structure of schemata conceptualized in the PBQ-SF subscales. However, in contrast to Trull et al. (1993), we used ipsatized PBQ-SF subscale scores and Guttmans SSA (1982) to explore its structure. Butler et al.s (2007) found the ipsatized subscale scores to show better differentiation of diagnostic categories than the raw scores. Butler et al. also observed that the ipsatized scores, which control for general factors affecting all subscales, as opposed to raw scores, yielded a pattern of correlations consistent with theoretical formulations of the disorders represented (p. 368). The raw subscale scores were highly inter-correlated, making them less useful. Furthermore, the ipsatized scores are not considered suitable for factor analysis (Greer and Dunlap 1997). Also, compared to factor analysis, Guttmans (1982) SSA is less constrained by the nature of data to explore structural aspects of related variables or items. According to Amar (2005) the SSA can be used for a variety of types of data (e.g., age, sex, ethnicity, people, and social structures) and a variety of coefficients of similarity or dissimilarity, for example, correlation coefficients, proportions, graded systems. In SSA, the aim is to interpret possible facets that underlie item configurations in the Euclidian space. In contrast, the factor analytic approaches interpret and label factors based on item loadings. The SSA produces a geometric representation of variables as points in the Euclidean space. This representation serves as the basis for identifying underlying facets that are hypothesized conceptual categories, criteria, or rules for classifying sets of variables. The proximity of variables, with correlated


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variables located close to each other, in the Euclidean space suggests the similarity of their facet structure (Foa 1965). Maslovaty et al. (2007) noted the SSA does not require a large sample size as required for factor analysis and that it represents domains in fewer dimensions, making the results more coherent (p. 74). Typically, investigators attempt a 2-D or 3-D representation, choosing one with which provides a better fit to the observed data as measured by the coefficient of alienation and also by the interpretability of the solution. Usually coefficients of .15 or lower (Donald and Cantor 1990, suggest the upper limit of .20) and two-dimensional outputs are preferred for their greater stability and ease of interpretation, even though solutions of higher dimensionality yield lower alienation coefficients (Amar 2005).

Method Participants Students (n =228, 139 females and 87 males, 2 unspecified) from Introduction to Psychology classes participated in the study. Students were mostly 74 % White Americans, followed by 18 % African Americans, and 8 % Asians, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Americans. Students received credit toward fulfilling their research requirement for their respective classes. Nevertheless, participation was voluntary and students were free to terminate without penalty at any time. Instruments Personality Beliefs Questionnaire-Short Form (PBQ-SF) The PBQ-SF (Butler et al. 2007) contains 65 items (rated on 04 scale) to measure dysfunctional schemata associated with Avoidant, Dependent, Passive-Aggressive, Obsessive Compulsive, Antisocial, Narcissistic, Histrionic, Schizoid, Paranoid, and Borderline personality disorders. Although the first 9 subscales are based on subsets of 7 independent items each, the Borderline subscale consists of 1 Avoidant, 4 Dependent, and 2 Paranoid subscale items (Butler et al. 2002; see also Bhar et al. 2008). The ipsatized PBQ-SF subscale scores were used for analysis in this study. The ipsatized scores were obtained by subtracting the mean of the 9 subscales (i.e., excluding the Borderline subscale) from the individual subscale scores. Higher scores on the subscales are assumed to reflect greater dysfunctional thinking. Butler et al. (2007) reported Cronbach alpha reliability values between .79 and .91 for the 9 subscales (excluding the Borderline subscale).

Results The Cronbach values of the PBQ-SF subscales ranged between .71 and .89, with a median reliability of .78, not counting the Avoidant subscale for which the reliability coefficient was .62. These reliability values are in the range typically observed for personality scales and consistent with those found by Trull et al. (1993) for the longer version using college students.

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The Weighted SSA1 procedure for a symmetrical matrix of observed relationships (Amar 2005) was used. The three-dimensional solution (Coefficient of Alienation=.12) provided a much better fit than the two-dimensional solution (Coefficient of Alienation = .20). The three-dimensional solution shown in Fig. 1 suggested parsing the 10 PBQ-SF subscales into four sets arranged circularly in quadrants: Set 1. Dependent (DEP) and Borderline (BOR) subscales. Set 2. Narcissistic (NAR), Histrionic (HIS), Antisocial (ANT), and Schizoid (SCH) subscales Set 3. Obsessive-Compulsive (OBS) subscale. Set 4. Avoidant (AVO), Passive Aggressive (PAS), and Paranoid (PAR) subscales.

Discussion The SSA results provided a somewhat different perspective on the schemata associated with personality disorders than described in the DSM IV or earlier studies by Trull et al. (1993) and Butler et al. (2007). Specifically, the results suggest that the schemata associated with different personality disorders in the PBQ-SF are not independent sets; rather, they are overlapping sets with some features more or less prominent in different sets. This conclusion is consistent with Millon et al.s (2000) observations that real persons seldom present as pure types (p. 3). Millon et al. further noted no two people are exactly alike, even when they share the same personality disorder diagnoses. Although Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahlmer might both be considered antisocial personalities, for example, their personalities are nevertheless substantially different (p. 5). The four sets of subscales, located in the four quadrants formed by two facets and circularly ordered (see Fig. 1), are suggestive of a circumplex pattern in which each variable relates higher with its two neighbors and lower with the remaining variables

Fig. 1 SSA 2-D projection out of three facet diagram for PBQ ipasative scores


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(Foa 1965). Thus, the circumplex pattern suggests greater similarity in schemata between proximal disorders or sets of disorders than distant ones. For example, the dependent and borderline disorder schemata are close to each other in some ways, but as a set they share features with the schemata pertaining to narcissistic, histrionic, antisocial, and schizoid disorders. Furthermore, the schemata associated with dependent and borderline disorders share features with those of paranoid, passive aggressive, and avoidant disorders. Since the personality disorders differ in their schemata in some ways, but overlap in others, it is a challenge to identify the facets that provides the bases of groupings that emerged from the SSA. This is the most subjective part of the interpretive process, since the lines can be drawn in many ways to form categories, thus one is compelled to look at a variety of relational possibilities among the variables before making choices that seem most useful. One possibility is that the SSA suggests two broad facets with two elements each, (a) Ego-Concerns (need for self-enhancement or promotion and need for selfprotection) and (b) Control Concerns (feelings of lack of control and high need for control). Thus there were four sets of schemata that signify (a) need for selfenhancement and high need for control (Narcissism, Histrionic, Antisocial, and Schizoid); (b) need for self-enhancement and prominent feelings of lack of control (Dependent and Borderline); (c) need for self-protection and high need for control (Obsessive-Compulsive), and (d) need for self-protection and prominent feelings of lack of control (Avoidant, Passive Aggressive, and Paranoid). The suggested model is not perfect inasmuch as some disorders seem to be in the wrong quadrant. For instance, the Schizoid subscale is located in the selfenhancement and high need for control quadrant; but, examining the items of the Schizoid subscale would suggest that their content reflect concerns that are more selfprotective than self-enhancing or promoting, and thus, the Schizoid subscale should belong in the Obsessive-Compulsive section. As noted before, a major feature of the interpretive heuristics of SSA is that the construed categories are not to be considered as independent, but rather overlapping. Thus, the location of a variable suggests that it is closer to some variables in some ways, but it also has relations with other variables that are further away. Thus, the Schizoid subscales tap features of both high need for control and self-enhancement, but not as prominently as by the Narcissistic subscale. The Schizoid subscale also taps features of a high need for self-protection, inasmuch as it falls near the Obsessive-Compulsive quadrant. The Dependent and Borderline subscale seem to have features that tap feelings of lack of control and a need for self-enhancement. One might askhow do the individuals with dependent and borderline personality disorders seek selfenhancement? Their self-enhancement needs may be seen in the form of attachment to other individuals. While, the dependents tend to seek reassurance from stronger figures (Millon et al. 2000, p. 4), the borderlines frantically [fear] abandonment and isolation (Millon et al. 2000, p. 4), and engage in manipulative behavior to gain attention. Thus, the sense of self-enhancement of individuals with dependent and borderline disorders is quite distinct from individuals with narcissistic, histrionic, and antisocial disorders; individuals with the latter disorders are more likely to use aggressive strategies to promote their sense of self by exploiting others. The Paranoid, Passive Aggressive, and Avoidant subscales seem to have features which tap feelings of lack of control and high need for self-protection and as a set

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they share features with the subscales in the adjacent quadrants, that is, with the Dependent and Borderline subscales on one side and OCD subscale on the other side. Possibly, individuals with the paranoid, passive-aggressive, and avoidant personalities are similar in their schemata to the individuals with OCD personality inasmuch as they compulsively use the same strategies repeatedly. Likewise, individuals with the narcissistic, histrionic, antisocial, and schizoid disorders show obsessive-compulsive tendencies in the type of strategies they use. Clinical Implications The circumplex pattern of the schemata associated with the 10 Personality disorders subscales may provide additional ways of addressing treatment strategies along the continuum of concerns suggested by the two schematic facets (and their two subsets) of ego concerns (self-enhancement and self-protection) and control concerns (feelings of lack of control and high need for control). The earlier characterizations of the types of personality disorders in terms of anxiety-fearful behaviors (APA 1994; Butler et al. 2007) or anxious attachment (Trull et al. 1993) and interpersonal dominance (Trull et al. 1993) or externalizing and self-aggrandizing (Butler et al. 2007) are generally consistent with the two facets and their elements identified via the SSA, except that each personality disorder is now characterized by dual general concerns of ego and control. Thus, for example, in the treatment of Dependent and Borderline personality disorders, their dual concerns of lack of control and improving their self-worth need to be addressed. In treating Avoidant, Passive Aggressive, and Paranoid disorders, concerns of anxiety and fear may be recast in terms of automatic thoughts and core beliefs about both their feelings of lack of control and the use of cognitive and behavioral strategies that keeps their sense of self-protection intact. In other words, individuals with Avoidant, PassiveAggressive, and Paranoid disorders are unlikely to take risks that threaten their sense of control and self-protection. Thus, they may benefit from not only assertion training but also from being challenged for their expectancies of losing control when asked to take small risks. In the opposite quadrant are individuals with Narcissistic, Anti-Social, and Histrionic disorders whose risky behaviors are motivated by their need for excessive control and their need to enhance or promote their self-importance. For these individuals, a confrontation of their excessive self-worth might be helpful along with increasing their awareness of the impact they may have on other people. Although, the Schizoid subscale fell in the same quadrant with Narcissistic, Histrionic, and Antisocial subscales, it is also close to the Obsessive-Compulsive subscale. The location of the Schizoid subscale roughly in the center of the circle might suggest that the individual scoring high on this scale may have concerns about self-enhancement, self-protection, feelings of lack of control, and need for control. This pattern seems consistent with the lack of intrinsic motivation so characteristic of the schizoid personality, making it a very challenging ailment to treat (Millon et al. 2000). The representation of the 10 PBQ-SF subscales in terms of two facets, each with two subsets, may provide a helpful way to think (a) more generally about the schemata associated with personality disorders, and (b) about designing specific interventions to target major dysfunctional thinking in the treatment of individuals with personality disorders.


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