a Kellian perspective dependency on other people is not something we
of as we mature, but is integral to living in society (Kelly,
1962/1969). We exist within a web of
involving interdependencies and in this sense are more dependent as
young children. What is distinctive
about young children and their dependencies is that the latter are
concentrated, so that available resources, such as parents, meet all
needs. As they get older this concentration
ideally, so that dependencies become more dispersed, with some people
some needs, and other people meeting others.
considered that undispersed
dependency was a problematic approach to obtaining support. This is not because our wants and needs are
not met using such an approach – indeed they may be. It
is not because we are unhappy in such
situations or even that those we rely on are unhappy with our depending
(though that can be a problem). Rather
it is that we are vulnerable in changing times so that our needs cannot
met. Also that very concentrated mode of
depending militates against change, the latter being something that
Critical to the process
dispersing our dependencies effectively was the nature of construing
(Kelly, 1955). Much of such construing
is preverbal, even into adulthood. Fewer
differentiations, whether of people, problems or needs, would parallel
undispersed depending. Pre-emptive
construing, whereby an element is seen in one way only, and impermeability,
construing that does not readily accommodate to new circumstance, were
similarly linked to lack of dispersion. Interactions
based on role constructs, whereby people relate to another
by attempting to see the world from the other’s perspective, were
important. Presumably by entering into
the other’s ways of construing we can more readily monitor the impact
dependencies on them.
Kelly proposed a way of
dispersion of dependency, called the Situational Resources Grid (Kelly,
and subsequently termed a Dependency Grid
(Fransella & Bannister,
1977). This grid contained possible
resources on one axis, and potential problem situations on the other. Participants were requested to ‘think of a
time when they had the most trouble with each problem in turn. If these people had been around, to whom
could they have gone for help’. They
placed a tick for each resource on whom they could depend.
This aspect of Kellian
its associated measure, was largely ignored in research, therapy and
accounts of the nature and scope of the theory for a number of decades. Two pioneering studies used the grid in very
different contexts. Crump, Cooper, &
Smith (1980) explored occupational stress in air traffic controllers,
part of that study the social support networks drawn upon under
situations. Beail & Beail (1985)
drew on both the theory and methodology to provide an alternate
de-institutionalisation for former psychiatric patients living in a
hostel. Their concern was that such
to "encourage independence", an aim that is doomed to failure from a
Research into dependency
facilitated by Walker, Ramsay & Bell (1988) who provided a
means to differentiate degree of dispersion of dependency, known as the
dispersion of dependency
index (DDI). This study provided a test
of the kinds of construing linked by Kelly to
differing degrees of dispersion. More
impermeable and preemptive construing was linked to lesser dispersion
dependency, consistent with a developmental perspective (Walker, 2003). Other research has been reviewed by Walker (1997).
A number of people have
on the clinical implications of this aspect of Kelly’s theorizing (e.g.
1993; Chiari, Nuzzo, Alfano, Brogna, D’Andrea, di Battista, Plata &
Stiffan, 1994; Leitner & Faidley, 2002). Kelly
(1955) himself pointed to a distinction
between primary and
secondary transference in the therapeutic relationship.
In the former case the therapist is viewed in
terms of the primitive dependency construing of childhood, with the
relating to the therapist "as if his life depended on it" (Kelly, 1955,
p. 670). Such a relationship may be necessary to
stabilise severely traumatised clients in the early stages of therapy,
limit experimentation, the focus of a personal construct therapeutic
- Beail, N. & Beail, S.
(1985). Evaluating dependency. In N.
Beail (Ed.) Repertory grid technique
and personal constructs: applications in
clinical and educational settings London: Croom
- Chiari, G. Nuzzo, M.L.
Alfano, V., Brogna, P., D’Andrea, T., di
Battista, B., Plata P. & Stiffan, E. (1994). Personal paths of
of Constructivist Psychology, 7, 17-34.
- Crump, J.H., Cooper, C.L.
& Smith, M. (1980) Investigating
occupational stress: A methodological approach. Journal of
Occupational Psychology, 1, 191-204.
- Fransella F, Bannister D
manual for repertory grid
Academic Press, London,
- Kelly, G. A. (1955). The
psychology of personal constructs. New York: Norton.
- Kelly, G. A. (1962/1969).
In whom confide: On whom depend for
what? In B. Maher (Ed.) Clinical
psychology and personality: The selected papers of George Kelly (pp.
189-206). New York: Krieger.
- Leitner, L. &
A.J. (2002). Disorder, diagnoses, and
the struggles of humanness. In J. D.
Raskin & S. K. Bridges, (Eds.). Studies in
meaning: Exploring constructivist psychology. New York: Pace University Press.
- Walker, B. M. (1993).
Looking for a whole 'Mama': Personal construct theory and dependency. In L. M. Leitner & N.G.M Dunnett, Critical
issues in personal construct psychotherapy. Malabar, Fl.:
Krieger, pp. 61-84.
- Walker, B.M. (1997).
Shaking the kaleidoscope: Dispersion of dependency and its
relationships. In G.J. Neimeyer & R.A.
in Personal construct Psychology, vol. 4. Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI, pp.
- Walker, B.M. (2003). Making sense of dependency.
In F. Fransella (Ed.). International Handbook
of Personal Construct Psychology, London: Wiley.
- Walker, B.M., Ramsey,
F.L. & Bell, R.C. (1988). Dispersed and undispersed dependency, International
Journal of Personal Construct Psychology, 1, 63-80.