Children's Storytelling and Movement Behavior in Relation to Aggression, Affect States, Defense Mechanisms and Psychological Strengths and Vulnerabilities

Alla Sheynkin, Pace University


A psychoanalytically-informed study of aggression, including verbal and nonverbal behavioral manifestations, related affects and drives were examined herein. This archival study of 30 mother-child dyads was used to investigate the relationship of maternal reflective functioning (RF), defense mechanisms (DM) employed by children, in the context of storytelling and pretend play, as well as their movement patterns. Defense mechanisms of 17 girls and 13 boys (age M= 5.07, SD = .5) were assessed with the Defense Mechanisms Manual for Children's Doll Play (Nimroody, Hoffman, Christian, & Rice, 2016). Children's nonverbal behavior was observed and coded using variables of the Kestenberg Movement Profile (KMP) (Kestenberg-Amighi J, Loman, Lewis, & Sossin, 1999). Specifically, elements from sub-systems of pre-efforts, efforts, shaping in directions, shaping in planes were utilized, as well as bound, free and neutral tension flow attributes, and growing and shrinking shape flow attributes. The Reflective Functioning Scale (Fonagy, Target, Steele, & Steele, 1998) was used to assess maternal RF and for the purposes of this study was dichotomously classified as either high or low. Two-way random absolute single measure Intraclass Coefficients were computed to assess interrater reliability, which was found to be fair, good or excellent (Cicchetti, 1994) for 23 out of 29 variables. Pearson coefficient correlations between RF, DMs and KMP variables revealed several significant findings, some of which confirmed findings of previous studies, as well as posed questions and one hypothesis at the outset of this study. Due to the exploratory nature of this study several findings were unanticipated and novel. Analyses revealed that high RF is negatively correlated with frequency and degree of aggression, Aggression Total (AggT) (r = -.423, p < .020), Aggression Highest (AggH) (r = -.401, p < .028), and Aggression against the Self (AggS) (r = -.416, p < .022). Positive correlations were found between KMP elements (up and AggT, AggH, AggS; down and AggT, AggH, AggS; sum of Shaping in Directions and AggT, AggH, AggS), which point to an interesting relationship between uninhibited movements, indicative of willingness to interact and confront the task, and DMs. The implications of these and other finding, correspondences among maternal RF, children's verbalized and embodied expressions of aggression and DMs will be discussed in this paper.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Sheynkin, Alla, "Children's Storytelling and Movement Behavior in Relation to Aggression, Affect States, Defense Mechanisms and Psychological Strengths and Vulnerabilities" (2016). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI10291249.



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