Top News 2020

English summaries

English Summaries (05/2020)

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Nelli Hankonen, Pilvikki Absetz & Frank Martela

How to increase adherence to recommendations to prevent the spread of epidemics: Contributions of the behavioural sciences

Preventing the spread of the new coronavirus requires many behavioural changes such as social distancing and regular hand washing. It is impossible to monitor the adherence to many of these guidelines and some might be in place for long periods of time. Accordingly, the effectiveness of the preventive measures is, to a large degree, dependent on people’s voluntary compliance. Within psychology in general, and social psychology in particular, there is a long tradition of research on how to influence people’s attitudes, motivations, and behaviour. There are also systematic frameworks for the development of effective behavioural interventions. The aim of the present article is 1) to demonstrate the usefulness of analysing behaviour and systematic intervention development in designing measures to help stop the spread of the epidemic, and 2) offer a number of concrete guidelines for such policies based on theories and evidence from the behavioural sciences. Behavioural sciences can be utilised in, for example, designing illustrative and motivating communication materials and ways of communicating, designing interventions through which people could consciously develop new routines for themselves, and tailoring the approaches to various subgroups. In the best case, policies activate people’s social identities and support their autonomous motivation, thus awakening a strong personal commitment to the required behaviour. The article is based on a review of literature reviews that makes use of both the past evidence base as well as recent scientific articles on how to utilise behavioural knowledge to prevent the spread of sars-CoV-2.

Keywords: coronavirus, sars-CoV-2, covid-19, policy, public administration, civil servants, behaviour change, health promotion, disease prevention


Emma Korhonen, Olavi Lindfors & Paul Knekt

Social support as a predictor of work ability and functional capacity in short- and long-term psychotherapy

Social relationships and support are considered to have significant impact on mental health. The therapeutic relationship between a client and therapist is one of the most important predictors of the effectiveness of psychotherapy, but little is known of the respective importance of external social support. The aim of this study was to examine if self-reported social support predicts changes in work ability and functioning capacity, and whether the prediction varies in different therapies. This study is part of the Helsinki Psychotherapy Study in which 326 patients suffering from either a mood or anxiety disorder were randomly assigned to short-term solution-focused therapy (SFT), short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (SPP), or long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (LPP). Participants were categorized into groups of strong and weak social support by the mediation of the total score of the Brief Inventory of Social Support and Integration (BISSI). Effectiveness of the therapies was evaluated by changes in four measures of work ability assessed in a five-year follow-up. Self-reported social support impacted work ability differently in different therapies. A new finding was that patients with weak social support benefited more at the beginning of the follow-up from SFT than from LPP, and at the end of the follow-up more than those in SPP. In the group with weak social support, those in LPP also improved more than those in SPP in the long run, but not in comparison to SFT, unlike in the group of patients with strong social support.

Keywords: depression, anxiety, psychotherapy, social support, work ability


Mia Huolman

Development of dissociative disorders and child dissociation in clinical work

This review introduces the main developmental models of child dissociative disorders and scientific research about dissociation, and aims to guide clinical work with children with dissociative symptoms. The discrete behavioural states model, disorganized attachment model, affect avoidance model, and self-state model will be introduced. In these models, the development of dissociation is linked to traumatic life experiences, whether support was available for coping with these experiences, different aspects of parenthood, and the tendency to avoid affect. Scientific research supports these developmental factors of dissociation, but none of the models has been studied comprehensively. Further, the results are not definitive, and only few studies have been done in the child population. Thus, generalization of the results must be taken with caution. Nonetheless, theories and scientific research can guide clinical work with children who have experienced trauma and suffer from dissociative symptoms.

Keywords: trauma, dissociation, child, development, support, avoidance, alexithymia, attachment, parent


Isabella Arponen & Katarina Alanko

Parental alienation and its consequences for the child – A systematic literature review

Parental alienation (PA) refers to a pattern of behavior, through which one parent tries to impair the relationship between the other parent and child. The purpose of this literature review is to compile the empirical research of PA as a phenomenon and its consequences on the exposed child, from the years 2015–2019. The literature search was done in the databases PsycINFO (Ebsco) and PubMed and in the Finnish databases Finna, Helda, Melinda, Tampub and Utupub. Eight studies and one master’s thesis were included in this literature review. The results indicate that PA occurs more often in families with divorced parents. PA that has begun in early childhood is likely to continue throughout childhood and adolescence. Furthermore, the results point out that being exposed to PA as a child have negative effects both on mental health and parent-child relationships. Therefore, it is safe to say that PA violates a child’s right to good mental health and safe relationships. Further research is needed, for example, on how to properly recognize this phenomenon, about its short-term and long-term consequences for the exposed child and whether PA behaviors can be prevented among parents.

Keywords: parental alienation, PA, divorce, children’s mental health, parent-child relationship