Childhood physical and emotional abuse by a parent: Transference effects in adult interpersonal relations

Kathy R. Berenson, Susan M. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extending research on transference and the relational self (Andersen & Chen, 2002), female undergraduates with or without a history of physical and emotional abuse by a loved parent participated in an experiment manipulating parental resemblance and threat-relevant interpersonal context in a new person. Transference elicited differences not evident in the control condition between abused and nonabused participants' responses, with greater rejection expectancy, mistrust, dislike, and emotional indifference reported by abused participants. Immediate implicit affect was more positive in transference than in the control condition regardless of abuse history. Yet, abused participants in transference also reported increased dysphoria that was markedly attenuated when interpersonal threat was primed, and no such pattern occurred among nonabused participants. Evidence that interpersonally guarded and affectively complex responses are triggered in transference among previously abused individuals suggests that this social-cognitive process may underlie long-term interpersonal difficulties associated with parental abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1509-1522
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Child abuse
  • Social cognition
  • Transference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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