Relationships between developmental experiences and choice of defensive behavior: Study II : Females

Date

1956

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Abstract

It was the purpose of this dissertation, one of two interrelated concurrent studies to explore areas of possible relationship between modes of defensive behavior in adults and early developmental experience of these adults, particularly within the family setting. The subjects for this study were 45 male (for Study I) and 45 female (for Study n) psychiatric patients referred for psychological evaluation at the University of Texas Medical Branch Hospitals in Galveston. This study has attempted to provide some clarification of the meaning of defensive behavior by isolating some of the early developmental events associated with ultimate Individual differences in choice of defense. Four defensive patterns-repressive, projective, intellectuallizing, and defense by denial-were used under the assumption that most defensive activities can be subsumed under these headings. The criterion measure employed for determining an Individual's defense pattern was an adaptation of Schafer's system of classifying defensive operations based upon an analysis of Rorschach protocols. Three clinical psychologists, all familiar with Schafer's method of classifying defenses by means of Rorschach Indicators (scores, themes, test attitudes), rated each of the Rorschach protocols; where there was unanimous agreement as to the defensive pattern used, the subject was Included in the sample. It was found that very few male deniers and very few female projectors were isolated in the sample. This led to the hypothesis that one might be the culturally determined sex-role counterpart of the other. Consequently, the male sample Included only intellectualizers, repressives and projectors, and the female sample was composed of only intellectualizers, repressives and deniers. The predictor measure selected as a source for information regarding developmental experience was an interview schedule which was Individually administered. This schedule was a compilation of material obtained from several sources. A relatively large number of hypotheses were formulated which were divided into two classes-general and specific. The general hypotheses were intended as preliminary tests of the validities of a number of speculations, biases, and preconceptions about the developmental experiences and/or resulting behavior traits of the defensive groups used. The specific hypotheses were drawn a priori as implications of the appropriate general hypothesis. The broad areas of inquiry for which hypotheses were formulated included experience and developmental conditions (e. g. socio-economic level of family of orientation), interpersonal relationships (e.g. Identification with father, mother, etc.), attitudes of the family (e. g. towards customs such as smoking, entertainment ksuch as dancing, institutions such as educational goals), self (e. g. attitudes of the subject towards achievement, aspirations, etc.) and special areas for the projective group (e. g. secretiveness, hostility, and aggression). The Interview schedule was administered only to those subjects whose Rorschach protocols were unanimously agreed upon by the three raters as to the specific defense pattern employed. Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Test scores were also obtained from the customary psychological test battery administered to the patient on his referral for psychological examination. Steps in the analysis of the Interview schedule data Included scaling each of the responses to Interview questions on the basis of the number of possible consistent discriminations; scoring of the items according to this system of scaling; determining directionality for each of these scaled items; converting each of the Item scales into a standard scale; arranging clusters of items to make up rational scales representing various areas of developmental experience; conducting a rough Item analysis for each of the rational scales; and employing a modified median test to test systematically hypotheses of relationship between defensive choice and developmental experience. The most salient finding of this study was the definitive separateness of developmental experiences between the Intellectualizing and the repressing groups in which the sex of the subject apparently played no differentiating role. In the area of experience and developmental conditions, the socio-economic level of the family emerged as the most important determinant of defensive choice, regardless of sex. The intellectualizer, both male and female, perceived the family environment as abounding in material ease and comfort. Further, the intellectualizer, regardless of Ms sex, had a higher level of education, was more intellectually curious, had wider interests, and was more prone than the repressive to change behavior patterns and attitudes during the several developmental stages. In terms of Interpersonal relations, the intellectualixer of both sexes identified with both parents to a greater degree than the repressive, and yet reported having more difficulty (e. g. friction, conflicting attitudes etc.) with them. In general, the repressive of either sex had a great deal more trouble with various aspects of life experience-more difficulty with school work as well as difficulty in relations with teachers and classmates, more problems pertaining to health, and less ability to get along with peers. The repressive was more easily led had more trouble in adjusting to non-family authority figures, and in general had fewer satisfactory interpersonal relationships. The attitudes of the families of represslves were also consistently different from those of the intellectuallxers, regardless of the sex of the subject. Parents of repressive subjects were less liberal and open-minded, granted less freedom and independence, encouraged their children less toward Independent, unilateral courses of action with the apparent result that repressives were not prone to use their discretion in such ordinary activities as spending or saving money, smoking, going to church, etc. Parents of intellectualizers generally gave their offspring freedom of choice as to recreation, entertainment and leisure activities, and in general had fewer objections or prohibitions. Another common finding among the intellectualizers of both sexes was that their parents were reported as administering punishment more severely and consistently than was true of the reported practices of the repressive parents. In the area of self attitudes, the intellectualizer of each sex had a much wider range of Interests, and a level of aspiration which was at the same time more realistic in the sense that he experienced greater accomplishments than did the repressive. In considering the original contention that the male projector might be the culturally determined sex-role counterpart of the female denier, not much was found in the study which would support this as a definite conclusion. However, the facts still remain that few male deniers and female projectors were found, the female denier group and the male projector group did share some common developmental experiences and they showed almost completely opposite manifestations of behavior in many areas which might indicate differences in 'reaction formation'. It may well be that our present techniques of investigation may not be sensitive enough to pick up the essential similarities between these two groups.

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Keywords

Defense mechanisms, Women, Psychology

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