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The Sociotropy–Autonomy Scale

The Sociotropy–Autonomy Scale (SAS; Beck, Epstein, Harrison, & Emery, 1983) is a 60-item, self-report questionnaire that was constructed to assess the personality dimensions of sociotropy and autonomy, specifi cally to study their relationships to life stress events in the development of symptomotology. Other measures of these constructs are the Depressive Experiences Questionnaire (DEQ; Blatt, D’Affl itti, & Quinlan, 1978) and the Personal Styles Inventory (PSI; Robins, Ladd, Welkowitz, & Blaney, 1994). The most recent factor analysis of the SAS yielded two subfactors of sociotropy, Preference for Affi liation and Fear of Criticism, and two subfactors for autonomy, Independent Goal Attainment and Sensitivity to Others’ Control (Bieling, Beck, & Brown, 2004). Beck et al. (1983) report the psychometric properties of the SAS. An expanded and revised SAS was constructed byClarkand Beck (1991) to increase its convergent validity, especially for the autonomy scale. However, most research has relied on the original SAS (Bieling, Olshan, Beck, & Brown, 1998). The SAS has been used in a number of studies to examine the relationship between life events and depression.

Support for the “congruency hypothesis” (Sociotropic individuals would respond to interpersonal disruption and autonomous individuals would respond to negative achievement events) has found support in clinical (Hammen, Ellicott, & Gitlin, 1992; Robins, 1990) and college student samples (Robins, 1990) for sociotropy. Robins and Block (1988) found that autonomous individuals experienced more negative achievement events than non-autonomous subjects, but only Robins and associates (Robins, Hayes, Block, & Kramer, 1995) found that autonomy moderated the relationship of depression and life events for both achievement and interpersonal events. Bieling et al. (1998) provide a summary of this research. Generally speaking, the interaction between sociotropy and negative interpersonal events has been found to be signifi cant in the prediction of depression more frequently than has the interaction between autonomy and negative achievement events.

Recent research by Bieling et al. (2004) followed depressed patients through 12 sessions of cognitive therapy and found that both subscales of sociotropy were positively associated with depression at intake and decreased signifi cantly over time in those who responded to treatment. One subscale of autonomy, independent goal attainment, actually increased signifi cantly with treatment response. The other autonomy subscale, sensitivity to others’ control, showed no change. These results indicate that the use of the SAS subscales is informative, for an increase in one suggests improvement and a decrease in the other may be a sign of improvement. This difference would be lost in a total score. The authors conclude that Independent Goal Attainment is a sign of psychological health.

Moreover, there was stability in these personality variables as well as clinically meaningful change with cognitive therapy. Research has demonstrated that sociotropy is related to anxiety as well as depression.Clarkand Beck (1991), using a college sample, found that sociotropy predicted both current dysphoria and current anxiety, but autonomy predicted only depression symptoms. Persons and her colleagues (Persons, Burns, Perloff, & Miranda, 1993) found a relationship between dependency beliefs and anxiety symptoms in a clinical sample. Alford and Gerrity (1995) also found sociotropy to be predictive of anxiety in college students. Haaga, Fine, Terril, Stewart, and Beck (1995) found an association between sociotropy and levels of both anxiety and depression in a college student sample. Fresco and colleagues (Fresco, Sampson, Craighead, & Koons, 2001) looked at life stress, depression, anxiety, and personality dimensions over 8 weeks among college students. Sociotropy correlated positively with anxiety symptoms while autonomy correlated positively with depression symptoms. Sociotropy moderated the relationship between life events and depression for both negative interpersonal stress and achievement stress, which suggests that sociotropy may be a general (non-specifi c) vulnerability factor to depression.

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One Response to “The Sociotropy–Autonomy Scale”

  • Ameena Mohamed says:

    Could you please email me only the Autonomy subscale of The Sociotropy–Autonomy Scale (SAS; Beck, Epstein, Harrison, & Emery, 1983) .Please include its validity,reliability and scoring of the same.


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