Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Timothy L. Hulsey

Committee Members

Leticia Flores, Garriy Shteynberg


Otto Kernberg (1967) developed a psychoanalytic theory of personality organization in which he posited that all individuals operate on one of three levels of personality organization: neurotic, borderline, or psychotic. His theory was developmental in nature and based on the idea that our earliest experiences establish unconscious interpersonal patterns that persist throughout life.The current study examined whether attachment style (anxious or avoidant) and factors of temperament (negative affect, effortful control) would predict personality organization. In particular, we examined identity diffusion and use of primitive defenses as markers of personality functioning. Results revealed that anxious attachment, negative affect, and effortful control significantly predicted identity diffusion and use of primitive defenses. The clinical implications for these findings as well as potential future research directions are discussed.

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