Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Leonard Handler

Committee Members

Richard Saudargas, Robert Wahler, Laurence James


Experimental and clinical research has discovered certain qualities of information processing and object relations to underlie externalizing behavior disorders in adolescence. The purpose of this study was to test the hypotheses that adolescents with externalizing behavior disorders demonstrate distinct and clinically significant . information processing tendencies and object relations than non-patient adolescents. Additionally, this study aimed to investigate changes in information processing and object relations among this sample through treatment at a residential treatment center. Finally, this study tested the hypothesis that information processing and object relations changes underlie changes adolescents make in their social behavior as a consequence of psychological treatment.

The 49 participants of this study were recruited from a group of patients admitted to a residential treatment center in eastern Tennessee. The participant s were administered the Rorschach Inkblot Method, Minnesota Multiphasic Inventory, Adolescent Version (MMPI-A), and Child Behavior Checklists were rated by staff (CBCL) at admission and discharge.

Result s of the study indicated that the majority of information processing and object relations variables on the Rorschach (X-%, F%, ZD, DQC, MOA and AGC) varied significantly from non-patient peers and were consistent with previous samples of age-related adolescents with externalizing behavior disorders. Indices on the MMPI-A (CYN, CON, ANG, and ALN) did not significantly differ from age-matched normative samples, however. When the information processing and object relations of this sample was assessed for changes made upon the Rorschach, MMPI-A and CB CL variables, significant changes were found to have occurred. The participants made significant behavioral changes as indicated by CBCL scales SOC, AGG, and DEL and made improvements on roughly half of the MMPI-A and Rorschach variables. However, only one of the four information processing variables on the Rorschach, ZD, was found to alter after treatment.

Finally, results indicated MMPI-A changes, but not Rorschach changes, were statistically predictive of behavior changes . Specifically, changes participants made upon scales CON and CYN were highly associated with diminished aggressive behavior and social problems, respectively. The results are discussed in light of the on-going concern that psychological intervention may address dynamic aspects but not structural aspects of personality, especially during briefer treatments.

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