Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Ken Critchfield


One of the most controversial psychological disorders in the mental health field is personality disorders. Personality disorders are difficult to study and difficult to treat. Among other issues, high comorbidity among personality disorders interferes with its reliability and differential diagnosis. Substantial efforts in the last decades are attempting to address some of these issues by rethinking the way personality disorders are diagnosed, and special attention has been placed on traits-based dimensional models. Despite the multiple advantages of traits-based dimensional models, there is some hesitancy in the field regarding whether these models are truly equipped to serve as the basis for a clinically useful PD diagnostic system.

Given the clinical tradition of the interpersonal paradigm for conceptualizing personality, the general goal of this study was to see if an interpersonal model could contribute to develop a clinically useful comprehensive diagnostic system of PDs. Thus, this study explores Benjamin’s interpersonal model’s conceptualization of the nature and structure of PDs. Two research goals guide this investigation: exploring a) whether clinically and theoretically meaningful profiles of behaviors emerge when defined according to Benjamin’s model and b) whether Benjamin’s conceptualization of the structure of PDs and its patterns of overlap could be operationalized and predict observed patterns of comorbidity. The multifaceted study utilizes archived clinical data from ninety-three adults from an inpatient psychiatric hospital who were interviewed utilizing Benjamin’s case formulation method. Content experts converted qualitative data into quantitative data representing presence (i.e., =1) or absence (i.e., =0) of specific interpersonal variables. Hierarchical cluster analyses were conducted showing that a 5-cluster solution captured clinically distinct groupings of patients with severe characterological issues based on their interpersonal features. A Mantel test was also conducted to compare correlational matrices representing the expected and observed patterns of comorbidity among PDs. The results from this study provide preliminary support to the internal coherence and validity of Benjamin’s interpersonal model as a clinically useful measurement framework for personality disorders, and develops guiding questions for further clarification.



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