Aggression and directionality in manifest dream content across level of ego development in female adults



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The purpose of this exploratory study was to (a) make comparisons between manifest dream content (specifically, aggressive encounters) and ego development in female adults and to describe these observations, and (b) to examine and describe trends in manifest dream content which reflect for- ward-looking or regressive movement (directionality). Thirty-five female undergraduate and graduate volunteers participated in the study. Level of ego development was assessed by the Sentence Completion Test devised by Loevinger and Wessler. For each subject, seven dreams, selected from among those submitted from an approximately one month recording period, were content analyzed as item units and judged as forward-looking, regressive, or unclassified. A modified version of the Hall-Van de Castle scales, used to content analyze for aggressive and friendly interactions, provided an index of aggression for each subject as well as a measure of type of aggression. Two questioned relationships between ego level and aggression were tested using a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). For the first, the dependent variables were measures of centrality and dispersion of aggression, calculated using an indice of aggressive acts divided by aggressive plus friendly interactions. For the second, the dependent variables were the ratios of four types of aggressive encounters to total aggressive acts: witnessed-physical, dreamer involved-physical, witnessed-nonphysical, dreamer involved-nonphysical. For both tests, levels of ego development served as levels of the independent variable. Additionally, relationships between both ego level and aggression and directionality were examined descriptively. While the statistical findings indicated no significant differences among the ego levels with the variables tested, the descriptive findings suggested trends toward certain quantitative and qualitative differences to provide focus for future research and methodological modifications. Subsequent descriptive analysis suggested that those subjects at Post-Conformist ego levels exhibited a greater proportion of aggressive physical encounters in dreams than did those at the Conformist levels, whose profiles of aggression were more similar to those reported in the literature. Qualitative differences among ego levels were apparent as aggressive dreams were characterized as exhibiting increased hostility and interaction as ego level progressed. While the Conformist groups interacted aggressively in more mundane and verbal situations, usually with known characters or family members, the Post-Conformist groups reported aggressive dreams which were characterized by increased drama, intensity of feeling, less mundane circumstances, and unknown characters. With regard to directionality, the group as a whole had a majority of their dreams unclassified. About one of four dreams was forward-looking and about one of five was regressive.It was concluded that although statistical procedures did not indicate differences in developmental patterns, descriptive findings revealed sufficient indication of possible patterns to warrant additional research using methodological modifications.