The association between adolescent ego development and self-reported psychopathological symptoms and behaviors

Susan Hazlett Ryf, Pace University


The relationship between ego developmental level and psychopathological symptoms was investigated in a group of 320 male and female adolescents, ages 14-18, taken from a public suburban high school and a private psychiatric hospital. Level of ego development was measured by Loevinger's Washington University Sentence Completion Test (WU-SCT); Achenbach's Youth Self-Report (YSR) was used for identifying psychopathological symptoms. Mean profiles of symptoms were obtained for six ego level groups. Profile analysis revealed no significant differences among these groups for either shape or dispersion. However, a MANOVA revealed that ego development does have an overall effect on levels of self-reported symptoms. Further analysis by ANOVA revealed ego level effects for both the Internalizing and Externalizing broad-band categories and the Total Problems scale as well as all the narrow-band categories except Withdrawn. Multiple comparison tests uncovered two patterns that accounted for most of the significant differences: (1) the Self-Protective I-$\Delta$ group reported more symptoms than did the Conformist I-3 group on both broad-band scales as well as the Somatic Complaints, Attention Problems, Aggressive Behavior, and Total Problems scales; (2) the Impulsive I-2 group reported more symptoms than did the Conformist group on both the Externalizing and Delinquent Behavior scales. This same group also reported more Delinquent Behavior symptoms than either the I-3/4 Self-Aware group or the I-4 Conscientious group. This finding supports the results of earlier investigations addressing ego development and delinquency (Frank & Quinlan, 1976; Noam et al., 1984). Lastly, the Conscientious group was found to report more Thought Problems than the Impulsive group, the I-$\Delta$/3 Self-Protective/Conformist group, and the Conformists. It was emphasized that these results are likely to have more to do with the manner in which those at different ego levels report their own symptoms than with the reality of those symptoms. Suggestions for further research in this area include assessing psychopathology beyond self-report procedures and investigating the relationship between ego development and the various manifestations of specific types of psychopathology.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Ryf, Susan Hazlett, "The association between adolescent ego development and self-reported psychopathological symptoms and behaviors" (1996). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9708501.



Remote User: Click Here to Login (must have Pace University remote login ID and password. Once logged in, click on the View More link above)