Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Leonard Handler

Committee Members

John Lounsbury, Wes Morgan, Julia Malia


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between adult attachment and maturity of defense mechanisms. 100 undergraduate students were given both the Adult Attachment Projective (AAP) and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), which was scored for defense mechanism use with Cramer's Defense Mechanism Manual (DMM).

The AAP's four scoring categories were condensed into two groups reflecting secure and insecure attachment. These were then compared to the three levels of defenses that the DMM scores for: denial, projection, and identification. These defenses exist on a hierarchy with denial being the most primitive and identification being the most mature.

Results suggest that insecure attachment is related to the primitive defenses of denial and projection. No differences were found between the insecure and secure groups for the mature defense of identification.

The findings of this study argue for the idea that attachment may be a factor in the development of defensive structures. Two theories for this finding are discussed. First, primitive defenses may become ingrained during childhood because of an inability to use an attachment figure for comfort and protection. Second, individuals with insecure attachment may not be able to use identification effectively as a defense, necessitating the greater use of other more immature defenses to guard against distress. This study also shows that immature defenses may be a better measure of psychological deficits than mature defenses.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Education Commons