What is present on this page is a summary. The development of the Scale is presented fully here:
Development Of The IFS Scale
Our goal was to develop a new measure based on the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model that would be useful for clinical and research purposes. Adults from a variety of settings (N = 1174) volunteered to rate how frequently they experienced various thoughts and feelings on a self-report questionnaire. Cronbach’s alpha, Pearson product-moment correlations, partial correlations, and factor analysis were used to examine the internal reliability and construct validity of the scale. A 57-item IFS Scale with 10 subscales was developed. It was found to have adequate internal reliability and to reflect meaningful group differences consistent with IFS theory.
The IFS Model
The IFS Scale is based on the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, developed by Richard C. Schwartz (Schwartz, 1995). The unique contribution of this model is that it integrates two paradigms: systems theory and multiplicity of mind, resulting in a systemic view of intrapsychic processes. The application of systems principles and techniques to the intrapsychic system provides an effective framework for resolving deeply entrenched inner conflicts and problematic behavior.
The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model conceptualizes the human mind as inherently multidimensional, consisting of a core Self and an indeterminate number of “Parts” or subpersonalities. A Part is defined as “not just a temporary emotional state or habitual thought pattern. Instead, it is a discrete and autonomous mental system that has an idiosyncratic range of emotion, style of expression, set of abilities, desires, and view of the world” (Schwartz, 1995, p. 34). The mind is viewed as existing on a continuum of coherence. The more healthy and balanced an internal system is, the greater the sense of harmony and cooperation among the parts. In a personality that is out of balance, the parts are in conflict with one another, polarized into patterns of alliances and coalitions, and caught in escalating and repetitive sequences of behavior. Conflicted, polarized internal systems can result from imbalances in the environmental context or from trauma, which are particularly problematic when they occur in the developmental stages.
Although each Part is unique and idiosyncratic, there are three general categories of Parts: Managers, Firefighters, and Exiles. The Exiles are the wounded and hurt Parts that are carrying pain, shame, vulnerability, etc. The role of the Managers and Firefighters is to protect the Exiles and the Self, although their strategies differ. The Managers protect proactively, trying to control the environment and keep it safe. The Firefighters protect reactively, by numbing or distracting from painful feelings.
The core Self is viewed as the seat of consciousness, the essence of who and what a person is, and the natural and capable leader of the internal system. The Self can be experienced as active, aware, discerning and strong; it can also be experienced as balanced, calm, and compassionate. The Self thus has a dual nature, which may relate to state vs. trait conceptualizations.
Every individual, no matter how distressed or traumatized, has a core Self that is healthy and intact. If the Self is not leading the internal system (e.g., a person is not calm or compassionate, or their behavior is harmful to themselves or others), it is not because the Self is defective, missing, immature, or inadequate, only that it is being constrained, either externally (by a stressful environment) or internally (by polarized Parts). Once the Self is free from constraints, it already has everything it needs to be an active, wise leader of the internal system and to move toward a healthy, fully functioning life.
Schwartz found through clinical exploration that applying family systems principles and techniques (differentiation, restructuring, boundary making, etc.) on the intrapsychic level is an effective way of increasing Self-leadership and releasing the constraints that prevent an internal system from functioning at an optimal level.
The IFS Scale was developed to profile an individual’s personality in terms of (1) the types of parts that are dominating the internal system, (2) how protected that system is, and (3) how much Self-leadership there is.
Factor analysis was used to determine the final subscales of the IFS Scale. Based on a series of statistical analyses the original 130-item scale with 19 subscales was reduced to a 57-item IFS Scale with 10 subscales that gives a profile of Self and the most commonly found types of Parts. Results indicated that the full IFS Scale (a = .98) and each of its subscales (a = .83 to .96) exhibit internal consistency.
Analysis revealed that all dimensions of parts and Self as measured by the Scale are distinct. The partial correlations indicated that that there was very little overlap; the vast majority of the partial correlations (220 out of 224) retained strong significance (p < .000), indicating that the subscales are reflecting distinct dimensions.
In order to further examine the construct validity of the measure, the issue of trauma was explored. According to IFS theory, polarized and conflicted internal systems result from various sorts of environmental constraints, especially trauma. Theoretically, other things being equal, the greater the degree of trauma an individual has experienced, the more extreme the Parts will be, and the less access to Self there will be.
Independent t-tests revealed that the high trauma group scored higher on Parts than the low trauma group: t(780) = 16.06; p < .000. The high trauma group also scored lower on Self than the low trauma group, t(844) = -13.52, p < .000.
Regarding gender, males scored higher than females on Self and lower than females on all Parts subscales. However, females reported significantly more trauma than males, so when level of trauma was controlled for, significant gender differences disappeared. As a result, means and standard deviations for all subscales were calculated separately for males and females.
Schwartz, R.C. (1995). Internal family systems therapy. New York: Guildford Press.