Throughout the course of adolescence, bodily perceptions become entities that arise, accompany and mature, acquiring their meaning on their own or in connection with the adolescent’s inner emotional world and its regulation. In the early period of adolescence, adolescents have no established mechanisms to help them recognize and regulate bodily changes, they find it hard to define bodily perceptions, and also to relate bodily states to their emotional experience. It is generally assumed that younger adolescents differ from older ones in terms of their ability of perceiving bodily perceptions (sensations) and in the ability to associate this aspect with emotions.
The present dissertation attempts to define bodily perceptions, how adolescents recognize them, and how the field of feelings relates to emotions. The author was also particularly interested in strategies the therapists of an innovative model of relational family therapy use when working with the body and body perceptions in adolescents.
The quantitative part of this research included 792 adolescents between 15 and 25 years of age. They were divided into a group of younger (15–25 years; N = 591) and older adolescents (20–25 years; N = 201). Quantitative research was supplemented by qualitative research in which 18 adolescents from both age groups participated. The Multidimensional assessment of interoceptive awareness (MAIA) was used to measure the ability of perceiving bodily sensations, the expression of psychosomatic complaints was measured with the Psychosomatic complaints scale (PCS), the Emotional processing scale (EPS) was used to measure the ability of emotional processing, Alexithymia questionnaire for children (AQC) measured the ability to identify and verbalize bodily feelings. Ten participants between 17 and 25 years participated in the qualitative part of the research which identified developed categories of theurapeutic interventions related to processing of bodily perceptions in adolescents.
The results of the quantitative part of this research failed to confirm the hypothesis of the existence of statistically significant differences between the groups on the selected dimensions of the MAIA in the selected sample. In younger adolescents, there is an inverse statistically significant degree of association between some selected dimensions of the MAIA and the dimension of PCS. In older adolescents, the prediction of an inverse statistically significant degree of correlation between selected dimensions of the MAIA and the overall expression of psychosomatic complaints was confirmed. There is a statistically significant difference in the rate of overall dimension of PCS between the two groups, with the rate of expression of psychosomatic complaints being statistically significantly lower within the group of older adolescents.
There is also a statistically significant degree of correlation between almost all selected dimensions of the MAIA and the EPS. There is an inverse statistically significant degree of association between emotional stability (EPS) and expression of physical symptoms (PCS) in the selected sample. The existence of a statically significant degree of association between the dimensions of difficulty recognizing feelings, difficulty describing feelings (AQC), and level of expression of physical symptoms (PCS) was confirmed.
The results of the qualitative research supplementing the quantitative part of the first research question, define the types of possible physiological perceptions in the body, location of bodily perceptions in the body, definition of possible ways of describing bodily perceptions in the body with the help of physical categories, and definition of bodily responses to bodily perceptions.
Categories of therapeutic interventions emerging from the use of ground theory research method are identification of: therapeutic strategies of handling bodily perceptions and the body in adolescents, strategies of handling bodily perceptions in the therapist in relation to bodily sensations in adolescents, and identification of the steps in the therapeutic process of processing bodily sensations in adolescents.
The results of this research have to be interpreted in the context of its limitations, including: the participant recruitment method of obtaining, the method of data acquisition, and inadequacy of questionnaire items when applied to the adolescent population.