Psychological splitting in divorce and separation

This research project is an exploration of the relationship between psychological types, as derived from Carl Gustav Jung’s theory, and ego defense mechanisms, as conceptualized by psychoanalytical theorists ranging from Sigmund and Anna Freud to George Vaillant. The two sets of constructs (4 bipolar typological dimensions and 24 defense mechanisms) were measured using two established self-report instruments: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – Form M (MBTI) and the 88-item Defense Style Questionnaire (DSQ). Recruited mostly from a university setting, 213 participants completed the two instruments and answered a few basic demographic questions regarding their age, gender, and education. Given the differing reports in the literature regarding the psychometric characteristics of the DSQ, a principal components analysis was used in Study 1 in order to identify the factor structure of the instrument based on this sample. That preliminary study revealed three conceptually meaningful factors identified as: Maladaptive Defense Style, Neurotic Defense Style, and Adaptive Defense Style. In Study 2, hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used to identify the contribution made by the psychological type variables and the demographic variables (as predictors) to the explanation of variance in participants’ scores on each defense factor and each defense mechanism (as outcome). As hypothesized, knowledge of participants’ psychological type increased the ability of regression models to explain and predict respondents’ scores on the ego defense measure, when compared to models based only on the demographic variables. Among the significant findings: the Sensing – Intuiting dimension discriminated between the Maladaptive and the Adaptive Defense Styles, with higher Sensing scores being associated with higher scores on the Maladaptive Defenses, such as: Hypochondriasis, Isolation of Affect, Projection, and Splitting. Higher scores on Intuition were associated with higher scores on the Adaptive Defenses, such as: Humour, Sublimation, and Suppression. Introversion was positively associated with the Maladaptive Defense Style, as were the responses of younger participants. The Thinking – Feeling dimension discriminated between lower and higher scores, respectively, on the Neurotic Defense Style. Gender differences were also identified, with males scoring higher on Denial, Isolation of Affect, Omnipotence-Devaluation, and Splitting, as well as on the Maladaptive Defense Style in general. No clinically significant interaction effects were detected. Implications for clinical practice and future research directions are also discussed.

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