A Critical Appraisal of Self-Report Defense Mechanism Measures



Defense mechanisms have been a source of both fascination and frustration for most personality researchers because they are conceptually intriguing but their assessment is often problematic. To aid personality researchers in integrating defense mechanism theory into personality research, we review and critique the major existing self-report defense mechanism measures: the Coping and Defending Scales (Joffe & Naditch, 1977); the Defense Mechanisms Inventory (Gleser & Ihilevich, 1969); the Life-Style Index (Plutchik, Kellerman, & Conte, 1979); and the Defense Style Questionnaire (Bond, Gardner, Christian, & Sigal, 1983). We conclude that no self-report measure adequately assesses the defining features of defense mechanisms. We offer a number of person and situation variables that must be considered when evaluating any defense mechanism measure, and we conclude that the comprehensive assessment of defense mechanism use will likely require measures obtained from multiple sources.