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Testing three-item versions for seven of young's maladaptive schema.


The Young Schema Questionnaire (YSQ) in either long-form (205-item) or short-form (75-item or 90-item) versions has demonstrated its clinical usefulness for assessing early maladaptive schemas. However, even a 75 or 90-item "short form", particularly when combined with other measures, can represent a lengthy "research-oriented" survey. This study's purpose was to test whether shorter three-item measures could reliably measure maladaptive schemas. Using two samples, 102 undergraduates in counseling and 962 undergraduates not in counseling, psychometric support was found for reliably measuring seven three-item schemas: unrelenting standards, subjugation, mistrust and abuse, abandonment, dependence, entitlement and social exclusion. Such a research-version survey of the YSQ could be more easily combined with additional measures, without risking respondent fatigue and missing data. (118 words)

Key Words: maladaptive schemas; scale construction; attitude scaling


The Young Schema Questionnaire (YSQ) was designed to help assess early maladaptive schemas in individuals suffering from depression (Young, 1990; Young & Klosko, 1993). There are different long- and short-forms of the YSQ. The YSQ long-form was initially developed using clinical intuition, consisting of 205 items with 15 subscales (factors) representing the 15 schemas proposed by Young (1990). Generally supportive results have been found with the YSQ long-form, although the factor structure has been found to vary somewhat across samples (Oei & Baranoff, 2007). The 75-item YSQ short-form was constructed using a factor analysis (Schmidt, Joiner, Young & Telch, 1995) for the five highest loading items for each of the 15 schema. Using different undergraduate samples, the factor structure of the YSQ short-form has been found to also vary. For example Baranoff, Oei, Cho and Kwon (2006) found that a 13-factor solution was a better fit for their South Korean and Australian undergraduate samples, while Cui, Lin and Oei (2011), using Chinese undergraduates, found that a 14-factor solution was best. For the second 90-item "short form" version (18 schema, 5 items/schema) of the YSQ (Young, 2005), Hawke and Provencher (2012) confirmed 14 of 18 schema using a sample of 973 nonclinical participants.

The YSQ in either long- or short-form versions has clearly demonstrated its usefulness for clinical practice (Hawke & Provencher, 2012). However, even a 75-item or 90 item "short form", particularly when combined with other measures, can represent a lengthy "research-oriented" survey, where respondent fatigue may become an issue (Edwards, 1997), and may result in a significant non-response bias, including missing data (Roth, 1994). Cooper and Archer (2002) advocated that counseling centers engage in more research activities. This study's purpose was to test whether shorter three-item measures could reliably measure maladaptive schemas.


Sample and Procedure

In the fall of 2011, spring 2012, fall, 2012, and fall, 2013 after reading Young and Klosko (1993), the first author asked undergraduates across his human resource classes to name the two most important life traps (schemas) they had faced thus far. A frequency count across these classes led to seven life traps being identified: unrelenting standards, subjugation, mistrust and abuse, abandonment, dependence, entitlement, and social exclusion. A fall 2013 meeting among key Counseling Services' clinicians at the University also indicated that these seven life traps (schemas) were well-represented in undergraduate clients the clinicians had and were currently seeing. Several of these schema (e.g., entitlement, dependence) were also recently identified among university staff as being descriptive of millennial generation college students (Much, Wagener, Breitkreutz & Hellenbrand, 2014).

In the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014, data were collected for 102 undergraduates who registered for counseling services. The counseling center is located in a large urban-based campus in the northeastern part of the United States. These 102 students had been designated at their initial in-person triage interview as non-urgent, were willingly seeking counseling, and voluntarily agreed to fill out a survey measuring demographics and their current levels on the seven life traps. This sample will be designated as "current counseling." When asked to identify "what mental health issue best captures why you came to counseling," the two main issues were anxiety (40%) and depression (26%). A demographic breakdown showed: 69% were female and 31% were male; 72% were Caucasian, 12% African American, 7% Asian, 3% Hispanic and 7% other; 92% were currently full-time students; 67% were residential/within walking distance to campus, while 33% commuted; and 22 years was the average age. By comparison, the fall 2013 demographics for University X undergraduates (N = 28,068) were 51% female and 49% male; 60% Caucasian, 13% African American, 10% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 12% other; 88% were full-time students, and the average age was 22 years.

In the spring of 2014, data were collected on 962 undergraduates not currently in some type of counseling. These students came from various business classes, including: human resources, marketing, finance, business administration, and they voluntarily completed a survey. This sample will be designated as "non-counseling." A demographic breakdown showed: 56% were male and 44% were female; 60% were Caucasian, 21% Asian, 9% African American, 4% Hispanic and 6% other; 94% were currently full-time students; 61% were residential/within walking distance to campus, while 39% commuted; and 22.5 years was the average age.


Three-items were used to measure each schema. The item content of these seven schema were pilot tested among four key counseling center clinicians, as well as 10 undergraduates who were interning at the counseling self-help center before survey administrations. In condensing each schema scale down from longer measures, careful attention was paid to keeping the face validity of each item for a particular schema (Stone, 1978). In addition, the previous 6-point response scale used by versions of the YSQ long-form/ short-form (1 = completely untrue of me to 6 = completely true of me) was replaced by a 7-point response scale to capture greater response variation (1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree, as well as to allow a neutral response). The three items measuring each of the seven schema (21 total) are shown in Table 1.


All statistics were done using SPSS-PC version 22 (SPSS, Chicago, IL, 2013). A principal components analysis (PCA) was performed for the 21 schema items using the current counseling sample. Following prior work on the YSQ (Baranoff et al., 2006), the Kaiser Meyer Olkin value was .74, exceeding the threshold of .60, and suggesting that factor analysis should produce distinct and reliable factors. Analysis of eigenvalues (being at least one) and scree test results indicated that seven factors were appropriate. These seven factors were orthogonally rotated to maximize the factor loadings dispersion and produced interpretable factors. All 21 items were kept and each had loadings of at least .69, without strong cross-loadings on other factors. The seven factors accounted for 79% of the variance. These results support using three-items to measure each of the seven schema.

Following earlier work with the YSQ (Baranoff et al., 2006) confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) using maximum likelihood estimation was done on the 21 items using the non-counseling sample. The chi-square value was 610.42, degrees of freedom = 168, p < .001. Without using any modifications, the fit of the data to the seven factor model was good, as indicated by these fit indices: comparative fit index (CFI) = .966; adjusted goodness of fit (AGFI) = .921 (one-factor); and root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = .052. Ideally all "fit" measures should be at least .90, and error measures less than .10 (Baranoff et al., 2006). These results also support using three-items to measure each of the seven schema.

Since both the PCA and CFA on separate samples supported using three-items to measure each schema, scale means, standard deviations and internal consistency reliability estimates were computed for both samples. The results are shown in Table 2. Missing data across all items reduced each sample size to 97 for current counseling and 919 for non-counseling. Results show the highest mean for both samples is for unrelenting standards, while the lowest mean for current counseling is entitlement versus dependence for non-counseling. Scale reliabilities are above the recommended .70 threshold, except for entitlement in the current counseling sample (alpha = .65). Correlations between schema for each sample were then calculated. The results showed that for current counseling sample the highest correlation between schema was .55 (p < .001) between abandonment and social exclusion. The highest correlation for the non-counseling sample was .58 (p < .001) between abandonment and mistrust and abuse. Since the highest variance shared is 30% (.552) and 34% (.582) between schema across samples, following Hawke and Provencher (2012), these schema can be separately compared using an independent sample t-test (current counseling versus non-counseling). These t-test results are given in the far right column of Table 2, and show the current counseling sample to be significantly higher on five of the seven schema: subjugation, mistrust and abuse, abandonment, dependence and social exclusion. There was no significant difference between samples on unrelenting standards and the non-counseling sample had a higher level of entitlement than the current counseling sample.


The YSQ in either long- or short-form versions has clearly demonstrated its usefulness for clinical practice across many different samples (Hawke & Provencher, 2012). The goal of this study was to examine the feasibility of using shorter versions to reliably measure the most frequently cited maladaptive schemas (Young & Klosko, 1993) in samples of undergraduates. For the seven schema measured, the results were "psychometrically supportive" for using three-item scales with a slightly larger seven-response scale. This finding allows these seven schemas to be more easily combined with other measures in a "research-oriented survey", with less risk of respondent fatigue (Edwards, 1997). Present study analyses followed prior data analytic assessment procedures on the YSQ (Baranoff et al., 2006). Given that anxiety and depression were the two most often indicated mental health issues for the current counseling sample, their higher scores on subjugation, mistrust and abuse, abandonment, dependence and social exclusion, as well as lower score on entitlement, versus the non-counseling sample, seem logical.

The biggest limitations of this study are not measuring all 15 of the maladaptive schemas using three-items/schema (45-items), as well as not comparing the 75-item YSQ short-form version (Schmidt et al, 1995) to a 45-item version. Unfortunately, given the lack of prior research exploring this issue, the above-noted study goal was more modest. Clearly, the first step would be to develop a full 45-item version. The second step would involve using both the 45-item and 75-item versions to compare the scale correlations between each "research version" scale and its respective "short form" scale, and obtaining inter-correlations between each of these 15 schema scales of at least 0.75 to infer adequate construct validity of the research version (Stone, 1978). If successful, the goal could be to produce a 45-item "research oriented" version of the YSQ for undergraduates. One way to further distinguish this YSQ research-version is by using a larger 7-point response scale, which includes a "neutral" response, i.e., 4 = neither agree nor disagrees (versus the 6-point response scale used by the YSQ short- and long-forms). Such a YSQ research-version survey could be more easily combined with additional measures, without risking respondent fatigue (Edwards, 1997), and missing data (Roth, 1994). In addition, it is important to acknowledge that the large size of the control group increased the power to identify smaller actual mean differences between variables as significant.

Despite these limitations, this study is unique and there seems to be promise for developing a "research version" of the YSQ. Cooper and Archer (2002) advocated that counseling centers engage in more research activities, and Stone and Archer (1990, p. 587) include the idea of counseling centers' "thinking scientifically in a specific context." However, it is important to caution against using such a research-oriented YSQ measure for clinical practice.


Baranoff, J., Oei, T., Ho Cho, S. & Kwon, S-M. (2006). Factor structure and internal consistency of the Young Schema Questionnaire (Short Form) in Korean and Australian samples. Journal of Affective Disorders, 93, 133-140. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2006.03.003

Cooper, S. & Archer, J. (2002). Evaluation and research in college counseling center contexts. Journal of College Counseling, 5(1), 50-59.

Cui, L., Lin, W. & Oei, T. (2011). Factor structure and psychometric properties of the Young Schema Questionnaire (Short Form) in Chinese undergraduate students. International Journal of Mental Health Addiction, 9, 645-655. doi 10.1007/s11469-010-9283-4

Edwards, J. (1997). How to conduct organizational surveys: A step-by-step guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hawke, L. & Provencher, M. (2012). The Canadian French Young Schema Questionnaire: Confirmatory factor analysis and validation in clinical and nonclinical samples. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 44(1), 40-49. doi: 10.1037/a0026197

Much, K., Wagener, A., Breitkreutz, H. & Hellenbrand, M. (2014). Working with the millennial generation: Challenges facing 2 la-Century students from the perspective of university staff. Journal of College Counseling, 17, 37-47. doi: 10.1002/j.2161-1882.2014.00046.x

Oei, T. & Baranoff, J. (2007). Young Schema Questionnaire: Review of psychometric and measurement issues. Australian Journal of Psychology, 59(2), 78-86.

Roth, P. (1994). Missing data: A conceptual review for applied psychologists. Personnel Psychology, 47, 537-560.

Schmidt, N., Joiner, T., Young, J. & Telch, M. (1995). The Schema Questionnaire: Investigation of the psychometric properties and the hierarchical structure of a measure of maladaptive schemas. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 19, 295-321. doi:10.1007/ BF02230402

Stone, E. (1978). Research Methods in Organizational Behavior. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman & Company.

Stone, G. & Archer, J. (1990). College and university counseling centers in the 1990s: Challenges and limits. The Counseling Psychologist, 18, 539-607. SPSS-PCv19 2011. Statistical Package for the Social Sciences. Version 19. Chicago: SPSS Inc.

Young, J. (1990). Cognitive therapy for personality disorders: A schema-focused approach. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Exchange.

Young, J. (2005). Young Schema Questionnaire-Short Form 3 (YSQ-3). New York, NY: Schema Therapy Institute.

Young, J. & Klosko, J. (1993). Reinventing your life. New York: Penguin Books.


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Temple University


Temple University
Table 1. Seven Schema 3-item Scales

Unrelenting Standards

1. I strive relentlessly to meet all of my

2. I need to always do my best, I cannot settle
for "good enough"

3. I regularly set very high expectations for
myself that I must meet


1. I consistently sacrifice my own needs and
desires for the sake of pleasing others

2. Too often I let others control me, often out
of guilt or fear

3. I typically give a lot more to others than I
get back in return

Mistrust & Abuse

1. I am often afraid to let people get too close
to me because I expect that they will hurt

2. I generally expect people to eventually hurt
me or use me

3. I have to constantly protect myself and stay
on my guard with others


1. I cling to people because I am afraid they
will leave me

2. I am afraid that I will end up alone

3. I worry a lot that people I love or care about
will die or leave me


1. Other people (e.g., parents, family members)
generally take care of me better than
I can take care of myself

2. I often feel more like a child than an
adult when handling my daily life

3. I depend too much on others (e.g., parents,
family members) for their support and /or


1. I have a lot of trouble accepting "no" for
an answer

2. I consistently put my own needs first, before

3. I often insist that people do things my way

Social Exclusion

1. I feel very anxious in social situations (e.g.,
parties, other gatherings), like I do not

2. I feel dull and boring in social situations

3. It's very hard for me to fit in or connect
with others in social situations

Table 2. Schema Scale Means (M), Standard Deviations (SD),
Reliabilities (Cronbach Alpha) and Independent Sample T-tests for
Current Counseling Versus Non-Counseling Students

Schema                         Current Counseling (N=97)

                                 M        SD     Alpha

1. Unrelenting Standards (a)    5.38     1.20     .84
2. Subjugation                  4.64     1.46     .79
3. Mistrust & Abuse             4.31     1.75     .93
4. Abandonment                  4.16     1.84     .87
5. Dependence                   3.45     1.52     .77
6. Entitlement                  3.26     1.12     .65
7. Social Exclusion             4.10     1.64     .88

Schema                              Non-Counseling (N=919)

                                 M       SD    Alpha      T-test

1. Unrelenting Standards (a)    5.47    1.13    .89        -0.63
2. Subjugation                  4.26    1.37    .79      2.45 * (b)
3. Mistrust & Abuse             3.45    1.71    .92      4.61 * (b)
4. Abandonment                  3.06    1.63    .86      5.67 * (b)
5. Dependence                   2.86    1.52    .87      3.64 * (b)
6. Entitlement                  3.64    1.30    .71     -3.14 * (b)
7. Social Exclusion             3.16    1.70    .94      5.35 * (b)

(a) All schema scales based on 7-point response scale, 1 = strongly
disagree to 7 = strong agree

(b) Indicates a significant difference in means, (Current Counseling
Mean--Non-Counseling Mean);

* p < .05 (two-tailed test)
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Author:Blau, Gary; DiMino, John; Sheridan, Natalie; Pred, Robert S.; Beverly, Clyde; Chessler, Marcy
Publication:College Student Journal
Article Type:Report
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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