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Sabotaging The Self - A Trait? and It’s Relationship with Neuroticism

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Research Article Open Access
Thomson, Clin Exp Psychol 2017, 3:4
DOI: 10.4172/2471-2701.1000175
Research Article Open Access
Clinical and Experimental
Psychology
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ISSN: 2471-2701
Clin Exp Psychol, an open access journal
ISSN: 2471-2701 Volume 3 • Issue 4 • 1000175
Sabotaging The Self - A Trait? and It’s Relationship with Neuroticism
Wendy Thomson*
Department of Applied Psychology, University of Portsmouth, King Henry Building, Portsmouth, England, UK
Abstract
Introduction: The present study examines the extent to which self-defeating ideation, measured through the use
of the Self-Defeating Quotient discrepancy scores, and behaviour reect a single unitary trait of self-defeatedness,
and the extent to which levels of this underlying trait are related to Neuroticism.
Results: The results of a Structural Equation Model provide support for a single-factor model of Self-defeatedness
using the Self-Defeating Quotient (S. D. Q.). Additionally, the one factor model of the relationship between self-
defeating ideation and neuroticism indicated a signicant path between SDQ Discrepancy scores and Neuroticism.
Conclusion: The results indicate a signicant relationship between the Self-Defeating Quotient and neuroticism.
Combining information from multiple measures into a composite trait measure, and using SEM to take measurement
error into consideration, may provide a more accurate estimate of the strength of this relationship. These results
provide support for the view that self-defeating ideation is a unitary trait and a possible contender for joining the big
ve as number six.
*Corresponding author: Wendy Thomson, Department of Applied Psychology,
University of Portsmouth, King Henry Building, King Henry 1 Street, Portsmouth
PO12DY, England, UK, Tel: + 01534859429; E-mail: wendythomson7@icloud.com
Received: November 08, 2017; Accepted: November 28, 2017; Published:
December 05, 2017
Citation: Thomson W (2017) Sabotaging The Self - A Trait? and It’s Relationship
with Neuroticism. Clin Exp Psychol 3: 175. doi: 10.4172/2471-2701.1000175
Copyright: © 2017 Thomson W. This is an open-access article distributed under
the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted
use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and
source are credited.
Keywords: Trait; Personality; Self-defeating ideation; Self-defeating
behaviour; Structural equation modeling; Neuroticism; Self-defeating
quotient
Introduction
e denition of a trait for this study is a genetically inuenced or
a distinguishing quality or characteristic. A trait is not to be confused
with a state, which is a temporary way of interacting and dealing
with the self and others [1]. Understanding traits using the various
assessment instruments allows comparisons and various inferences to
be made about people, in an objective non-biased manner. Among the
theorists who developed tools to investigate traits are Hans and Sybil
Eysenck [2], who developed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire,
and Raymond Cattell [3], who authored the Sixteen Personality Factor
(16-PF) measure. Most of the assessment devices that result from trait
theory adopt a self-report type test, and incorporate an element which
attempts to prevent faking good or lies which may comprise the integrity
of the results. e main traits include disorder-related categories such as
depression, psychosis, histrionic (neurotic), introversion, masculinity/
femininity (gender role), and hypochondriasis.
ese assessment devices have provided a platform for gathering
large amounts of information, which can then be reduced using
statistical factoring techniques allowing comparisons regarding a
person's personality, interaction, and beliefs about the self and the
world. While dierent theorists may use dierent terminology, there
is some consistency regarding factors or personality traits. Eysenck and
Eysenck [2] demonstrated Introversion-Extraversion, Neuroticism and
Psychoticism, while there is some agreement between these traits, and
those now known as the Big Five, which are Openness to Experience,
Conscientiousness, Extraversion/Introversion, Agreeableness, and
Neuroticism. Like all of these ve traits, people will fall somewhere on a
continuum, with most falling somewhere in the middle.
e present study will examine the Self-Defeating Quotient as a
trait. Earlier research by the author omson [4] found higher levels of
premature mortality among individuals who had been diagnosed with
clinical depression. Subsequent work [5] sought to identify processes
that mediated the relationship between depression and mortality.
Clinically depressed individuals, and those with elevated levels of
Neuroticism (a risk factor for depression) had higher scores on the Self-
Defeating Quotient. Initial studies suggest that self-defeatedness is a
trait, in the sense of being a stable and pervasive feature of personality
[6]. Further, individuals who are high on this trait are also more likely
to exhibit behaviours that have the potential to compromise physical
health and lead to premature death. High levels of self-defeatedness
have been found to be associated with higher levels of coronary-prone
behaviour and drug use [6], as well as suicidal ideation [7]. Higher
levels of self-defeating ideation are also related to poorer self-health
care habits, such as longer delays in initiating screening tests for cancer
[6], and higher risk-taking behavior [6].
e study by omson [5] utilized discrepancy scores between
real and ideal behaviours to assess levels of self-defeating behaviour.
Higher levels of neuroticism were related signicantly to discrepancy
scores in the following domains: emotional well-being, community
aairs, personal habits, developmental contexts, and social control.
Two questions that arise from the results of this earlier investigation
will be addressed in the present study. First, to what extent do the
relationships between levels of self-defeating ideation in these
specic domains reect an underlying relationship between a general
trait of self-defeat and neuroticism? Secondly, to more adequately
address the previous question, we must consider a methodological
issue in the use of discrepancy scores to measure traits. Discrepancy
scores may systematically underestimate the true strength of the
relationship between variables. Cronbach [8] states that discrepancy
scores are vulnerable to the eects of measurement error. When
the dierence between two correlated scale scores is computed, the
resulting discrepancy between scores retains the same amount of
random measurement error as the original scale scores had, but less
Page 2 of 4
Citation: Thomson W (2017) Sabotaging The Self - A Trait? and It’s Relationship with Neuroticism. Clin Exp Psychol 3: 175. doi: 10.4172/2471-
2701.1000175
Volume 3 • Issue 4 • 1000175
Clin Exp Psychol, an open access journal
ISSN: 2471-2701
true score variance (since true score variance in one measure has been
subtracted from true score variance in the other). To the extent that
discrepancy scores include random measurement error, computation
of the correlation between a discrepancy score and another variable
will be attenuated: i.e., the computed correlation will be lower than the
correlation between actual scores [9].
To address the issue of self-defeating ideation as a trait, while
considering the role of measurement error, the present study will utilize
structural equation modeling [10] to examine the relationship between
measures of self-defeating ideation and neuroticism and to better
understand the extent to which measures of self-defeating ideation
reect a unitary trait. SEM also provides an opportunity to examine the
relationship of self-defeating ideation to psychological adjustment aer
taking into consideration the eects of random measurement error in
fallible indicators [10].
Methods
Sample
e present study utilized data from 159 participants. A substantial
portion of the sample received psychiatric care for depression: 34.2%
of the sample received treatment for depression while the remaining
65.8% of the sample served as normal controls. Females comprised
64% of the sample while 36% were male. e median age of the study
participants was 39 years old. Concerning employment status, 40.9% of
the sample was employed full-time, 30.8% were employed part-time,
and 1.9% were self-employed. A further 6.3% were full-time students
without employment, 10.1% were unemployed, 5.0% were disabled,
2.5% were retired, and 2.5% were homemakers. Pre-existing medical
conditions were present in 35.1% of the sample.
Procedures
e test group consisted of patients referred to a psychiatrist and
diagnosed as depressed in an outpatient department. e questionnaires
were enclosed in a stamped addressed envelope and accompanied by an
information sheet that explained the purposes of the study. Potential
participants were informed that their involvement in the study was
voluntary, that they could withdraw from the study at any time aer
they started, and that responses to the survey would be anonymous.
Every patient who was referred as possibly depressed by their General
Practitioner was invited to complete a questionnaire while they awaited
the consultation with the psychiatrist. Control subjects were not being
treated for mental illness.
Instruments
Eysenck personality questionnaire: e Eysenck Personality
Questionnaire [2] consists of 90 yes-no items that are designed to
measure three dimensions of personality: Neuroticism, Extraversion,
and Psychoticism. e measure also includes a Dissimulation scale to
screen out respondents who give distorted answers to appear socially
desirable. e EPQ scales have shown high levels of reliability, both
in terms of internal consistency and test-retest reliability coecients
[2]. Alpha coecients and test-retest correlations for the EPQ scales
are higher than 0.8 across demographic sub-samples. e dimensional
structure of the EPQ has proved to be robust in numerous factor-analytic
studies: simple structure factor rotation yields three dimensions [11].
Further, these three dimensions appear to underlie the factor structure
of many other widely used personality inventories [12]. Considerable
evidence for the external validity of the EPQ dimensions has been
provided by numerous studies relating dierential performance on
experimental tasks, as well as behavioural patterns in real-world
settings, to levels of Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Psychoticism [13].
Self-defeating quotient: e Self-Defeating Quotient (SDQ) was
developed by the author omson [5] to assess factors that mediate
the relationship between depression and premature mortality among
depressed patients. Items for the SDQ were piloted with patients
who were undergoing treatment for depression and were revised in
consultation with psychiatrists. e SDQ consists of 33 statements
describing elements of the respondent’s behaviour and feelings, and
is administered in two parallel forms: one describing the extent to
which the statement describes the actual behaviour or feelings of the
respondent (the Now form), and the other indicating the Ideal level
of each item (the Ideal form). e response scale used was a 100 mm
line, which represented a continuum of response. e Control item
asks participants to indicate how much control they have over “things
that made them feel optimistic and content”. Participants responded
to this item by indicating whether they had Total Control or No
Control. Subjects were asked to mark their response to each item on
the line. Responses were coded from 0 to 100. At the one extreme, the
preferential state or behaviour was represented by a score of 0, while a
negative response was indicated by a score of 100.
e scoring of the SDQ is based on factor analysis of the item
ratings, as described by omson [5]. Four factor ally based scores
are computed for the SDQ-Now, and four parallel scales are computed
for the SDQ-Ideal. e Emotions, Habits, and Community scale is
computed as the average rating of items dealing with control, initiative,
contentment, stress, problems, temper, jealousy, elections, neighbours,
country, community, diet, weight, and debt. e Social Control scale
was computed as the average rating for items dealing with honesty,
caring, aggression, conservation, exercise, vandalism, and destruction.
e Developmental Contexts scale was computed as the average of
items related to early education, adult learning, colleagues, childhood,
work, family, family time, law, and altruism. Finally, the Drugs, Alcohol,
Smoking, and Frustration scale was computed as the average rating of
these four constituent items. A discrepancy score for each of the SDQ
scales is computed by subtracting the SDQ Ideal rating from the SDQ
Now rating. Higher discrepancy scores indicate that the SDQ Now
rating reects a more negative evaluation of present circumstances
compared with the SDQ Ideal rating.
Results
Preliminary analyses examined the mean response of subjects
to the EPQ and SDQ scales. e main analyses of the present study
then examined a causal model relating SDQ now-ideal dimensions to
dierential levels of Psychoticism, Neuroticism, and Extraversion.
Sample descriptive statistics
Eysenck personality questionnaire: Of the 159 subjects who
participated in the present study, 125 provided complete data on the
EPQ. Mean scores for the sample on the EPQ scales are shown in Table
1. Compared with the EPQ norms [2], scores on the Neuroticism scale
are notably higher, as would be expected in a sample that is comprised
predominantly of individuals with clinical depression.
Self-defeating questionnaire: e valid sample size with respect to
the four Ideal and four Now factors varied from 123 to 147 depending
upon the factor in question. Mean scores for the SDQ items in Now
and Ideal forms are shown in Table 2. Scale scores on the SDQ-Now
form are higher than scores on the SDQ-Ideal form, indicating that, on
average, subjects say their actual behaviour and feelings are less than
Ideal.
SDQ now-ideal discrepancy and neuroticism: To examine the
Page 3 of 4
Citation: Thomson W (2017) Sabotaging The Self - A Trait? and It’s Relationship with Neuroticism. Clin Exp Psychol 3: 175. doi: 10.4172/2471-
2701.1000175
Volume 3 • Issue 4 • 1000175
Clin Exp Psychol, an open access journal
ISSN: 2471-2701
structure of the relationship between SDQ Now-Ideal Discrepancy
scores and Neuroticism, Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) was
employed.
e SEM model conducted tested a one-dimensional model of
the relationship between self-defeating ideation and neuroticism.
Here, higher SDQ discrepancy scores on the Emotions, Habits, and
Community-scale, Social Control scale, Developmental Contexts scale,
and Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking, and Frustration scales were treated as
indicators of a single unitary dimension of Self-defeating ideation which
in turn were used to predict dierential levels of Neuroticism. is one
factor model of the relationship between self-defeating ideation and
neuroticism indicated statistical signicance in the path between SDQ
Discrepancy scores and Neuroticism, Beta=0.980, p<0.001. Perfect
model t was indicated in this case as this model was just-identied.
To aid in the interpretation of this model, parameter estimates are
presented below. Standardized regression coecients relating to the
latent dimension of Self-Defeating ideation to the four SDQ discrepancy
scores are shown in Table 3. Only the initial scale included in the
analysis was related signicantly to the SDQ discrepancy dimension.
e strength of the relationship between the latent dimension and each
SDQ discrepancy score can be assessed by computing the square of the
standardized regression weight. Discrepancy scores in the Emotions,
Habits, and Community-scale exhibit the strongest relationship with
the latent dimension (Beta=-0.636): slightly over 40 percent of the
variance in the Emotions, Habits, and Community discrepancy score
is accounted for by the latent dimension. Discrepancy scores on the
other three SDQ scales also exhibit reduced, though still strong and
statistically signicant associations with the latent dimension. e
latent dimension of self-defeating ideation accounts for approximately
9% to 20% of the variance in discrepancy scores on the remaining three
factors.
Discussion
e results of the present study provide support for the view
that self-defeating ideation is a unitary trait. Consistent with this
view, a one-factor model provided adequate t to subjects’ scores on
a measure of self-defeating ideation that encompassed multiple life
domains. Findings from the structural equation modelling analysis also
suggested that self-defeating ideation and neuroticism are more closely
associated than they might appear to be in simple correlational analysis.
In an earlier investigation, omson [5] found that higher discrepancy
scores on all four SDQ dimensions were associated with higher levels of
Neuroticism. e size of the signicant bivariate correlations between
these SDQ measures and EPQ Neuroticism scores ranged from 0.284
to 0.608 (median=0.430). is pattern of ndings suggests that,
individually, the SDQ scales account for between approximately 8 and
18 percent of the variance in Neuroticism scores.
e eects of the self-defeating ideation dimension on neuroticism
may have been larger in the present investigation for two reasons. First,
composite levels of self-defeating ideation, summed across multiple
life contexts, might be more strongly related to neuroticism than are
the more limited and specic aspects of self-defeating ideation that
are measured by single SDQ scales. In other words, the eects of self-
defeating ideation may be clearer when it is considered as a pervasive
trait, rather than as a situation-specic issue. A second reason the
relationship between defeating ideation and neuroticism might
have been stronger in the present investigation arises from the use
of an analytic approach, structural equation modelling, which takes
into consideration the eects of random measurement error in the
discrepancy scores. Using SEM, the regression between self-defeating
ideation and neuroticism reects an estimate of the impact of variation
in actual scores on the self-defeating measure. By contrast, the simple
correlation between self-defeating discrepancy scores and neuroticism
does not adjust for the attenuating eects of random measurement error
on the correlation. Further investigation of the impact of discrepancy
score measures should utilize SEM to assess the eects of measurement
error on correlations.
Summary
Trait theory and the individual traits contributes to the canvas
which makes up the unique identity of each individual which in turn
impacts on communities and the wider spectrum.
As a therapist I’ve been concerned with the need to confront the
plethora of issues associated with psychopathology aiming not just to
make the present manageable but to prevent problems in the future.
As a researcher I’ve been able to objectify the various hypotheses I’ve
formulated as a therapist. is research brings together both these
aspects.
e hypothesis I oer is that underlying disorder, however it is
manifested, there is a self-sabotaging element present to a greater
or lesser extent in everyone. Making this element conscious by
objectifying this trait is vitally important to the success of prevention
and intervention in both the short and long-term with the prospect of
altering the personal dynamics.
My landmark paper Evans [14] on stress and personality overturned
the then accepted view that stress emanates from without. Research
followed Evans [15,16] which dug down deeper. is paper similarly
attempts to address a misconception: that many of the biopsychosocial
diculties experienced by people owe their origins and are blamed and
accounted for by living in a stressful inuential society rendering them
unable to sustain the lifestyle they have orchestrated. is culture of
blame is unhelpful to the individual, and costly in terms of eciency
and eectiveness within the wider social and economic community:
It removes the responsibility from the individual and therefore
Scale Mean SD
Neuroticism 14.2 5.1
Extraversion 11.1 4.8
Psychoticism 3.2 2.3
Dissimulation 7.2 3.2
Table 1: Descriptive statistics for EPQ scales.
SDQ Scale Now Mean SD Ideal
Mean SD
Emotions, Habits, Community 39.5 15.6 15 9.7
Social Control 26.6 14.0 10.4 10.5
Developmental Contexts 30.3 14.0 14.0 11.5
Drugs, Alc., Smoking, Frus. 28.7 15.9 14.5 11.3
Table 2: Descriptive statistics for SDQ now and ideal scales.
SDQ Now Scale Coefcient
Emotions, Habits, Community -0.636***
Social Control -0.347
Developmental Contexts -0.444
Drugs, Alc., Smoking, Frus. -0.306
Note: *** p<0.001
Table 3: Standardized regression coefcients relating sdq discrepancy scales with
self-defeatedness dimension.
Page 4 of 4
Citation: Thomson W (2017) Sabotaging The Self - A Trait? and It’s Relationship with Neuroticism. Clin Exp Psychol 3: 175. doi: 10.4172/2471-
2701.1000175
Volume 3 • Issue 4 • 1000175
Clin Exp Psychol, an open access journal
ISSN: 2471-2701
undermines any opportunity for personal change [17].
It is timely during these times of rapid change when many succumb
to the stresses and strains they impose upon themselves to introduce
the notion of a self-sabotaging trait. Society oers on the one hand
limitless opportunity and freedom but on the other its inuence
can have a negative consequence, seductive in nature, leading to
unsustainable choices in which individuals become the victims and
captive to their own exploitation. e SDQ is a start towards a realistic
but confrontational measure: useful for the individual, the therapist and
research.
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... For example, Giacalone and Knouse (1990) asserted that machiavellian and hostility personality lead employees to exihibit sabotage behaviors. Thomson (2017) indicated a significant relationship between neuroticism and sabotage. However, Vaerøy et al (2016) and Piko and Pinczés (2014) emphasized that impulsivity trait highly correlated with aggressive behaviors which is considered as scope of the sabotage. ...
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