Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Minton, Henry L.,


Psychology, Clinical.




Using an epistemology based on social constructionism, this project explored the foundations, and subjective impact, of the term, "codependency." The definitions of "codependency," its historical antecedents in the disturbed Personality Hypothesis applied to wives of alcoholics, and the empirical and feminist critique of the theory were examined. Some reasons for women's acceptance of the term were outlined, and the possibility that codependency can be a feminist construct is reviewed. Based on Q- Methodology as described by S. R. Brown (1980) and C. Kitzinger (1987), the subjective definitions of the word were analyzed. Twenty-seven semi-structured interviews, designed to illuminate the participants' perspectives on codependency and related issues, were conducted with people who identify themselves as codependent, use the concept in their work, or reject the concept. Based on these interviews, two questionnaires were developed. The major questionnaire, a Q-sort, consisted of 120 statements referring to beliefs and opinions about codependency. Another questionnaire paired statements describing symptoms or characteristics associated with codependency with visual analog scales. Sixty people completed the questionnaires. For each scale, the results were factor analyzed using R- and Q-factor analysis. The Q-factor analysis of the Q-sort suggested six perspectives, entitled "Codependency as a Personal Issue," "Society's Disease" (which defined codependency as a disease entity linked to social issues), "Codependency as a Feminist Theory," "Concept Unimportant/Defined by Alcoholism," "Broad Critique of the Concept," and "Questions of Responsibility" (a mix of the views of codependents as victims and as contributing to their problems). Seven perspectives were identified among the symptoms and characteristics of codependency, entitled "Ingratiation with Resourcefulness," "Non-Hostile Control/Dependency," "Pessimism/Dishonesty," "Dependency/Causing Harm to Others," "Seeking Mistreatment," "Harmful Nurturance," and "Provoking Abuse." The content of these factors suggests that there are several possible constructions of "codependent," which vary in their potential for stigmatizing those so labelled. Because of the variety within the subjective experience and impact of the term, "codependency," careful communication is necessary to comprehend any individual's use of the word. The implications of these results for clinicians, researchers, and theorists are discussed.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1995 .D68. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 56-11, Section: B, page: 6385. Adviser: Henry L. Minton. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1995.