The Relationships Between Early Maladaptive Schemas and Youth Mental Health: A Systematic Review

Abstract

Background

Although early maladaptive schemas (EMS) have been strongly associated with psychopathology in adults, this association is less clear in young people since schemas are still emerging. This systematic review examines the relationship between EMS and psychopathology in young people to assess the degree to which EMS discriminate between psychopathologies, consistent with the cognitive content specificity hypothesis.

Methods

PsycINFO, MEDLINE, PsycARTICLES, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, CINAHL Plus, Web of Science, and Scopus databases were systematically searched.

Results

Fifty-eight studies were identified for inclusion, with 24,005 participants across all studies. We found evidence of the relationship between EMS and psychopathology in young people. EMS were found to discriminate between depression, anxiety, eating pathology, borderline symptomology, and externalizing behaviors.

Conclusion

Findings are discussed in the context of treatment approaches for psychopathology in youth, specifically through an increased understanding of the role of EMS in this developmental period. We also suggest future research directions and discuss the methodological limitations of the studies reviewed, including a bias towards community samples, and a lack of consistency in EMS measures. These findings suggest that EMS may be an important area to target when treating youth presenting with psychological distress.

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to Phil Kavanagh, Peter Chamberlain (deceased), Anna Brichacek and Grahame Boulton, who provided assistance on this project.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation and analysis were performed by AN. The first draft of the manuscript was written by AN and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Annemarie Nicol.

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Annemarie Nicol, Anita S. Mak, Kristen Murray, Iain Walker, and Dean Buckmaster declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Nicol, A., Mak, A.S., Murray, K. et al. The Relationships Between Early Maladaptive Schemas and Youth Mental Health: A Systematic Review. Cogn Ther Res 44, 715–751 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-020-10092-6

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Keywords

  • Early maladaptive schemas
  • Psychopathology
  • Youth mental health