Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Psychology and Social Sciences


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr. Chris Theunissen

Second Advisor

Dr Eyal Gringart


Self psychology proposes that the individual's early experience is central to adult psychological functioning. The purpose of this paper is to outline the key concepts in self psychology, the empirical evidence supporting it and how it relates to early parenting experiences. The enduring psychological nature of early interactions with an individual's parents, are discussed in relation to adult functioning. Self psychology is based on clinical observations of clients undertaking psychoanalysis. Empirical support for the model is limited. The majority of studies consider the concept of narcissism, and other related self psychological concepts, such as selfobject needs, are inadequate Although this gap in the literature is beginning to be addressed, further work is required. This paper concludes by arguing for the convergence of self psychology and parental bonding theory by integrating concepts from both disciplines in future research. Self psychology is a psychoanalytic theory proposing that other people in an individual's environment provide a psychological function to help them maintain a healthy sense of self. The present study examined the relationship between an individual's childhood bonding experiences with their mother and how they related to others in adulthood. It employed a correlation and regression approach to investigate early parental bonding experiences and later selfobject needs. The Parental Bonding Instrument and the Selfobject Needs Inventory were administered to 264 undergraduate university students at Edith Cowan University. The results indicated that early parental bonding experiences were associated with later selfobject needs. Level of maternal care experienced in childhood was associated with avoidance of idealisation and twinship experiences in adulthood. This study has provided much needed empirical support for the theory of self psychology and given psychologists a greater understanding of the enduring nature of an individual's early parental bonding experiences.