The relationship between level of ego development and substance abuse and the impact of rehabilitation

Josephine Loiacono, Pace University


The current study was undertaken in light of the pervasiveness of the substance abuse problem in so many facets of our culture and the comparatively sparse literature on its relationship to ego development. Review of the literature on the extensive bodies of research on ego development and substance abuse as separate entities, as well as a review of the comparatively small collection of works which support their connection, are offered. Ego functions are operationally defined according to the model presented by Bellak, Hurvich and Gediman (1973), while ego development is discussed in accordance with the paradigm developed by Loevinger (1973). The current study was conducted at the Project Return Foundation Rehabilitation Program in New York. Ninety-six residents, matched in relation to gender, age, ethnicity, and age of onset of substance abuse served as subjects. Fifty-four residents in the beginning stages of treatment were assigned to a "pre-treatment" group; 42 residents in the end-stages of rehabilitation were assigned to a "post-treatment group." The primary instruments used in the study were the Washington University Sentence Completion Test of Ego Development (WUSCTED), The Id-Ego-Superego Test (IES) and the Draw-a-Person Test (DAP). The tests were administered primarily in group fashion. The primary hypotheses were that the post-treatment group would obtain higher scores on the WUSCTED, more integrated ("E") scores on the IES, and a smaller number of pathological indicators on the DAP than the pre-treatment group as a function of rehabilitation. Also, as the three primary instruments are each assessing ego functioning in some form, it was predicted that they would correlate with each other. A T-test of the means indicates confirmation of the first hypothesis, i.e. the post-treatment group did achieve significantly higher scores at the.05 level of confidence on the WUSCTED than the pre-treatment group; no support for the relationship between substance abuse and either IES or the DAP was found. Pearson Product Moment Correlations demonstrate no relationship between any of the three primary instruments. The results provide strong support for the hypothesized ego-development and substance abuse relationship, as well as for the ramifications for treatment and research of this problem, although limitations in experimental design diminish generalizability of the findings.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Loiacono, Josephine, "The relationship between level of ego development and substance abuse and the impact of rehabilitation" (1995). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9520514.



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