Assessing children’s defense mechanisms with the Defense Mechanisms Rating Scales Q-sort for Children

Submitted: September 24, 2021
Accepted: December 17, 2021
Published: December 21, 2021
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Defense mechanisms are unconscious and automatic psychological processes that serve to protect the individual from painful emotions and thoughts. There is ample evidence from the adult psychotherapy and mental health literature suggesting the salience of defenses in the maintenance and amelioration of psychological distress. Although several tools for the assessment of children’s defenses exist, most rely on projective and self-report tools, and none are based on the empirically derived hierarchy of defenses. This paper outlines the development of the defense mechanisms rating scale Q-sort for children (DMRS-Q-C), a 60-item, observer-rated tool for coding the use of defenses in child psychotherapy sessions. Modifications to the Defense Mechanisms Rating Scale Q-Sort for adults to create a developmentally relevant measure and the process by which expert child psychotherapists collaborated to develop the DMRS-Q-C are discussed. A clinical vignette describing the child’s defensive functioning as assessed by the innovative DMRS-Q-C method is also reported. Finally, we provide an overview of forthcoming research evaluating the validity of the DMRS-Q-C.



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How to Cite

Di Giuseppe, M., Prout, T. A., Ammar, L., Kui, T., & Conversano, C. (2021). Assessing children’s defense mechanisms with the Defense Mechanisms Rating Scales Q-sort for Children. Research in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome, 24(3).

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