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J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 2008 Jun;56(2):515-50. doi: 10.1177/0003065108319727.

Depression and internally directed aggression: genetic and environmental contributions.

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Department of Psychology, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA.


This study uses behavior genetic (BG) methodology to investigate Freud's theory of depression as aggression directed toward the self (1930) and the extent to which genetically and environmentally influenced aggressive tendencies contribute to depressive symptoms. Data from the Twin and Offspring Study in Sweden (TOSS) is used to demonstrate how, in estimating shared and unique environmental influences, BG methods can inform psychoanalytic theory and practice, particularly because of their shared emphasis on the importance of individual experience in development. The TOSS sample consists of 909 pairs of adult twins, their partners, and one adolescent child per couple. The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (Radloff 1977) was used to measure depressive symptoms and the Karolinska Scales of Personality (Schalling and Edman 1993) to measure internally directed aggression. Genetic analyses indicated that for both men and women, their unique experiences as well as genetic factors contributed equally to the association between internally directed aggression and depressive symptoms. These findings support Freud's theory that constitutionally based differences in aggression, along with individual experiences, contribute to a person's depressive symptoms. Establishing that an individual's unique, not shared, experiences and perceptions contribute to depressive symptoms and internally directed aggression reinforces the use of patient-specific treatment approaches implemented in psychoanalytic psychotherapy or psychoanalysis.

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