The Endorsement of Paranormal and New Age Belief as a Unique Form of Coping

Lowrie, Emma Louise (2018) The Endorsement of Paranormal and New Age Belief as a Unique Form of Coping. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The Psychodynamic Functions Hypothesis (PFH; Irwin, 2009) suggests that paranormal belief develops as a response to experiences of diminished control in childhood, often as a result of trauma or maltreatment. This can become re-activated during adulthood when life is seen to be chaotic or unpredictable as a form of coping. Despite this, only five studies have examined the association between paranormal belief and traditional coping, with mixed results. The current research sought to identify and explore the notion of paranormal coping. Qualitative interviews confirmed the existence of paranormal coping, provided a number of concepts for further exploration, and allowed for item generation for a paranormal coping questionnaire. Exploratory factor analysis revealed a five-factor model, of paranormal coping, which was not confirmed by subsequent data. After several rounds of data collection, and the development and rejection of a three-factor model, a four-factor model of paranormal coping (Cognitive-Orientated Coping, Avoidance-Orientated Coping, Lack of Control, and Practitioner Authenticity) demonstrated the most acceptable model fit. This model was validated using standardised questionnaires and demonstrated good internal subscale reliability. Subsequent analyses partly supported Irwin’s (2009) PFH, however there were some limitations with regards to the measure of perceived childhood control. Individual paranormal coping subscales were also differentially associated with thinking styles, supporting previous research linking paranormal belief with reasoning ability. The current research is particularly important given the prevalence of paranormal belief in the general population. Likewise, understanding the coping mechanisms used by adults who experienced trauma or maltreatment in childhood is essential to provide them with the most appropriate support.

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