Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Edward L. Trembley

Second Advisor

Dr. Suzanne Hedstrom

Third Advisor

Dr. Mike Bahr


Many women who present for psychotherapy with symptoms of depression and/or anxiety describe a common pattern of involvement in current and past nonmutual relationships. This phenomenon is described and explored in light of a new conception of entitlement. It is proposed that one’s sense of entitlement is a relative relational position along a continuum from overentitlement through healthy entitlement to underentitlement, and that these women are often underentitled in their adult relationships. Their relationships are often with overentitled others, and they may hold internal convictions that their place in relationships is to be underentitled. A particular pattern contributing to underentitlement in adult women may be a history of mother-daughter role reversal, in which the caregiving function was inverted.

Selected research from attachment theory is presented that applies to the hypothesis that one's sense of entitlement as an adult is related to relational expectations learned very early in life and internalized in working models of relationships, originating especially from the relationship with mother. Evidence is offered to demonstrate that these working models carry forward, affecting later social and cognitive development, and also mothering styles in adulthood. The feminist object relations perspectives of Chodorow (1989) and Eichenbaum and Orbach (1983) that suggest mother-daughter role reversals and underdeveloped identity in the daughter, which may occur as a result of their shared gender, is discussed.

Therapeutic provisions that address underentitlement and alter these women's internal expectation of underentitlement are suggested. Because one's working model regarding entitlement, like all working models, is learned and confirmed in relationships, changing the sense of entitlement hinges upon a different, disconfirming relational experience. Some relational experiences not provided (or insufficiently provided) in early attachment relationships will need to occur in treatment, in order for the person to more fully grow into selfhood and healthy, mutual relationships with others.

The importance of therapists' healthy sense of entitlement is discussed. The implications of therapists' entitlement-related training experiences are considered. Finally, areas for future research related to entitlement are identified.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access