Towards an understanding of defense style in terms of temperament and character

R. T. Mulder, P. R. Joyce, J. D. Sellman, P. F. Sullivan, C. R. Cloninger

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    40 Scopus citations


    The aim was to investigate the relationships between a model of personality based on the concept of defense mechanisms, as articulated by Vaillant, with the psychobiological model of personality, as developed by Cloninger. A total of 128 adults from 11 family pedigrees with at least two alcohol-dependent members completed the self-report Defense Style Questionnaire and the Temperament and Character Inventory. Immature defenses were largely explained by low character scores, while neurotic defenses were part temperament and part character. Cluster A, B and C defenses were related to low reward dependence, high novelty-seeking and high harm avoidance respectively. In a regression analysis, cluster B and C defenses were more related to low character scores than to temperament but, for cluster A defenses, temperament and character both contributed. The results suggest that it is possible to integrate an ego defense model of personality with a psychobiological model of personality, thereby enriching both approaches.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)99-104
    Number of pages6
    JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 1996


    • Defense mechanism
    • Defensive style
    • Personality


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