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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1996 Oct;35(10):1344-54.

Defense mechanisms in adolescents as a function of age, sex, and mental health status.

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  • 1Division of Child Psychiatry and Child Development, Stanford University, CA 94305-2160, USA.



To modify an existing instrument to provide a valid assessment of defense mechanisms in adolescents and to examine defense structure and usage as a function of age, sex, and mental health status.


Six hundred ninety-three subjects (187 nonclinic adolescents, 229 internalizing females, 99 incarcerated male delinquents, and 178 nonclinic adults) completed the modified Defense Style Questionnaire (DSQ), which yielded 19 defense scores.


Factor analyses of the 19 defense scores on the adolescent sample yielded three factors: Immature, Mature, and Prosocial Defenses. These were similar to those from studies of adults. Additional factor analyses were conducted on defense scores of subjects grouped by age, sex, and mental health status. The Immature and Mature Factors were relatively consistent across groups, but the Prosocial Factor varied by group. Multivariate analyses of variance and analyses of variance on individual and composite defense scores revealed differences by age, sex, and mental health status.


Although the modified DSQ needs further work to improve its psychometric properties, it is clearly fruitful to assess adolescent defense mechanisms. Results from extant studies of adults and males on the structure of defenses cannot be validly extrapolated to other age groups and to females.

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