Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Leonard Handler

Committee Members

Jacob Levy, John Lounsbury, Sandra Twardosz


The concept of ego defense mechanisms has been a central component of psychoanalytic theory since Freud and the repeated subject of psychoanalytic research. Attachment theory, originally formulated by John Bowlby as a radical revision of psychoanalytic views regarding the fundamental forces that drive our behavior, includes the concept of defensive processes, but so far these attachment-related defenses have not yet been the subject of research. The current study utilized attachment-related defense ratings adapted from the Adult Attachment Projective (AAP) and more traditionally defined ego defense mechanisms as measured by the Defense Mechanism Manual (DMM) in a sample of 90 college students to address whether a functional relationship exists between these conceptually different views of defense. Age and gender were also examined as potential covariates. Bivariate correlations between attachment related defense variables and ego defense variables indicated there was a medium-sized relationship between overall attachment-defense and overall ego-defense use. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis was conducted to examine which individual attachment defense variables and ego defense variables most contributed to this relationship, while controlling for age. The attachment defenses of Cognitive Disconnection and Segregated Systems and the ego defense mechanisms of Denial and Identification were found to account for most of the variance. Moderation analysis indicated there were no significant interactions between pairings of individual defense variables. No gender differences were found for any of the variables. Implications of these findings for future research regarding attachment-related defenses are discussed.

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