The Relationships Among Defense Style, Attachment Style, and Psychopathology in an Outpatient Clinical Population

Lindsey Greenfield, Pace University


As evidence based treatments and studies of therapy outcomes become increasingly important focuses in the field of psychology and psychotherapy, we have an increasing need to understand the dynamics of psychopathology and factors that are related to the development, maintenance, and treatment of pathology. Though there are few, if any, direct causal relationships between any one factor and the development of psychopathology, understanding the relationships among different factors can help therapists determine courses of treatment that will be the most effective for each individual patient. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationships among defense style, attachment style, and psychopathology in an outpatient clinic setting. It was hypothesized that there would be direct effects of attachment style and defense style on pathology, as well as a mediating effect of attachment style on pathology, through the effect of defense style. Participants were patients at a university based mental health clinic (N= 270). As part of their intake procedure, participants were administered the Defense Style Questionnaire, Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised, and Personality Assessment Inventory. The Findings of this study indicated that use of lower order defenses and insecure attachment styles both directly predict greater psychopathology. Additionally, there was a mediation effect, such that attachment style indirectly predicted pathology through the use of defense styles. In other words, anxious and avoidant attachment predicts less use of higher order defenses and greater use of lower order defenses, which in turn predicts greater levels of anxiety and depression. The findings of this study suggest that both attachment style and defense style play a role in the development and maintenance of psychopathology. Additionally, this study suggests that attachment style and defense style could be used in future research as outcome measures of psychopathology.

Subject Area

Psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Greenfield, Lindsey, "The Relationships Among Defense Style, Attachment Style, and Psychopathology in an Outpatient Clinical Population" (2015). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3662777.



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