Term of Award

Summer 2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Janice N. Steirn

Committee Member 1

Jessica J. Brooks

Committee Member 2

Amy A. Hackney


Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) is a model of couples therapy that is not empirically validated (Jakubowski et al., 2004). IRT proposes that individuals select Romantic Interests (Interests) that are similar to their Childhood Caregivers (Caregivers) in an effort to heal childhood wounding (Hendrix, 1988). The current study sought to evaluate the IRT proposition of romantic interest selection by evaluating patterns in romantic interest selection, particularly the relationship between Caregiver and Interest personality characteristics, adult attachment dimensions, gender, and geographical location of origin. In addition, the study considers similarities in participant narratives of positive and negative experiences with Caregivers and Interests. Participants completed three Big Five Inventories (one for Caregiver, one of Interest, one for the Self), the Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised, four open-ended qualitative questions, and a demographics questionnaire. The study used mixed methods of cross-sectional correlations and quantitative inferential statistics. Caregiver and Interest Agreeableness, Openness, and Neuroticism were significantly correlated, however, Extraversion and Conscientiousness were not. These findings somewhat support the proposition that individuals select Interests that are similar to their Caregivers, but not completely. Insecure attachment was related to Caregiver Neuroticism. No gender differences were found. Only participants from rural areas demonstrated correlations in personality characteristics for Caregivers and Interests. A series of co-occurrence analyses failed to reveal overlapping emotional and behavioral themes within participants’ narratives. These findings are unsupportive of IRT. The current study suggests that explaining the process of romantic interest selection requires integration of multiple theories, including but not limited to IRT.

Research Data and Supplementary Material