What Are The Main AvPD Causes?
Evolutionary psychology (the study of why behaviours evolve) explains in part the behaviour of those who suffer from AvPD. Our ancestors developed the ‘fight or flight’ response to things that they feared, and, as individuals with AvPD, at root, fear other people, they can become hostile to others (reflecting the ‘fight’ response), or do their best to avoid others (reflecting the ‘flight’ response). However, research suggests that ENVIRONMENTAL factors play a larger part in the development of AvPD than genetic factors (Millon and Everly).
Two main influences on the development of APD are :
Let’s look at each of these in turn :
– PARENTAL REJECTION : according to research conducted by the psychologist Kantor, parental rejection is the environmental factor which is most strongly associated with an individual’s later development of AvPD. This is borne out by the fact that those who suffer from AvPD are far more likely than others to have experienced rejection; furthermore, their experiences of rejection have commonly been found to be particularly intense and frequent.
Parental rejection will often set up the mindset (either consciously or unconsciously) in the rejected individual which runs along the lines of : ‘If my parents can’t accept me, how can I possibly expect anybody else to?’ This can have a catastrophic effect upon the person’s self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. It will often, too, lead the individual to become profoundly self-critical, even to the point of self-hatred.
– PEER REJECTION : if, when we are young, our home environment is rejecting, critical, hostile and undermines our sense of self-worth, but, on the other hand, outside of the home we have many experiences which are positively reinforcing to us (eg supportive teachers, friends or other social networks), the latter experiences may enable us to develop sufficient PSYCHOLOGICAL RESILIENCE to protect us from the worst emotional effects of our home-life.
However, if a young person is rejected not only by parent/s, but, also, by siblings and peer group, AvPD is far more likely to develop in later life, especially if the various rejections continue over a sustained period of time.
The experience of continual rejection and humiliation can lead to the individual internalizing others’ negative view of him/her (ie coming to see him/herself in the same negative light in which others appear to see him/her).
This leads him/her to become yet more self-critical and to feel even more inferior. These feelings of worthlessness lead to even greater withdrawal from others, and, thus, increases to an even greater extent the person’s loneliness and sense of isolation. In the mind of the person becoming increasingly cut off from society, the rejection by his/her peers seems to justify and validate the parental rejection. In the end, the individual may retreat so far from others that AvPD develops.
OTHER POSSIBLE PARENTAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF AvPD :
I briefly outline these two possible contributors to the development of APD below :
– INFANTALIZATION : parents who infantalize their children (ie are overprotective and don’t let the child develop a sense of self-responsibility) may make it hard for that child, as s/he grows up, to relate to others outside of the family on equal terms. This may lead to the individual becoming regressive and/or dependent in extra-familial relationships.
– TRANSFERENCE : (‘transference’ refers to the psychological mechanism whereby we transfer a feeling we have for somebody close to us onto a different person. An example would be a person who fears his/her father later transferring that fear onto authority figures in general, such as their boss at work). Transference can lead to avoidance behaviour when the person with APD distances him/herself from others who remind him/her of someone s/he was afraid of as a child (usually a parent).
Part 3, the concluding part of this article on APD, looks at ways in which it can be treated.
OVERCOME FEAR OF REJECTION MP3 – CLICK HERE.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).