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Hope, Defense Mechanisms, and Adjustment: Implications for False Hope and Defensive Hopelessness


  • I thank Duncan Campbell and Jennifer Luboski for helpful comments on a previous draft of this article. I also thank Duncan Campbell and Mark Williams for their supervision of data collection, and thank Amy Fries, Jennifer Hubbard, Malecka Nachtsheim, Kristy Saunders, Martina Sustek, Jodie Uyeda, and Lisa Warner for assistance with data collection and entry.

concerning this article should be addressed to Paul Kwon, Department of Psychology, P.O. Box 644820, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-4820. Electronic mail may be sent to World Wide Web address is


ABSTRACT Two studies replicated and expanded an earlier finding that defense style plays a crucial role in the relation between hope and dysphoria (Kwon, 2000). Lower hope and higher defense style immaturity were each associated with greater dysphoria, depression proneness, and maladjustment. Individuals with low hope and low defense immaturity did not have poor outcomes, supporting the existence of a subtype of low hope (defensive hopelessness) that may have adaptive value. The combination of high hope and high defense immaturity was not associated with maladaptive outcomes, arguing against the false hope construct. Additionally, the findings remained after controlling for levels of anxiety. Thus, it appears that the results are not attributable to general distress or negative affectivity. Finally, domain-specific hope was shown to correlate most strongly with matching areas of adjustment, providing evidence for the validity of the construct.