Date of Award

8-2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Leonard Handler

Committee Members

Derek Hopko, Richard A. Saudargas, Lawrence James

Abstract

The vast majority of research on disruptive behavior disorders has focused on all male or predominantly male samples. However, researchers have noticed a primary difference in the way boys and girls present symptoms of disruptive behavior disorders. This study examined gender differences in the description of and the psychological mechanisms underlying adolescent disruptive behavior disorders. Differences were assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist, MMPI-A and Rorschach with a group of adolescents (N=61; 34 males and 27 females) in residential treatment who had a diagnosis including a disruptive behavior disorder. Measures were given upon admission and discharge from treatment.

The results of this study somewhat support the general hypothesis that there are gender differences in the description of and underlying experiences of disruptive behavior disorders in adolescents. Contrary to the preliminary hypothesis, based on the CBCL, males appeared to have more difficulties with externalizing as well as internalizing behaviors. According to the MMPIA’s assessment of the personal experience of the behaviorally disordered adolescents’ psychological, social, and emotional state, as hypothesized, females appeared to have more distress over familiar discord and reported more subjective symptomatic improvement in general over the course of treatment. Based on the Rorschach’s indirect measure of the psychological phenomena underlying the adolescents’ disruptive behavior disorder there again were few initial differences between the males and females. However, males did show improvement in their experience of relationships with others over the course of treatment, so that their mean Mutuality of Autonomy (MOA) scores were equal to that of the females at discharge. Also, only females significantly lowered the number of aggressive content responses, indicating a greater ability to change the salience of aggression in their everyday life.

The majority of the gender differences found were in changes in the different measures across treatment. So even though males and females may present with similar symptoms and underlying difficulties, treatment appears to result in more changes for females, at least along the indices measures. This finding supports the notion that there are underlying gender differences in adolescents with disruptive behavior disorder, in that treatment may affect males and females differently.

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