Object relations in adolescence: A comparison of normal and inpatient adolescents


Hideko Sekiya, MD, Kanto Central Hospital, 6-25-1, Kamiyoga, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-8531, Japan. Email: sekiya@kanto-ctr-hsp.com


Aims:  We aimed to study the development of object relations in adolescents and their correlation with their mothers' defense styles in inpatient and normal adolescents.

Methods:  We administered the Thematic Apperception Test to adolescents in the adolescent unit (junior high, n = 16; senior high, n = 22) and normal controls (junior high, n = 16; senior high, n = 16). Results were analyzed using the Complexity of Representations Scale (CRS). We administered the Defense Style Questionnaire (DSQ40) to the subjects' mothers (patients, n = 38; controls, n = 32) to determine whether adolescents' CRS scores correlated with mothers' DSQ scores.

Results:  There was a nearly significant interaction for group-by-school-year for the children's CRS scores. In the control group, senior high school students' scores (mean [SD] = 3.52 [0.49]) were significantly higher (F [1,66] = 12.3, P = 0.001) than those of junior high school students' (mean [SD] = 3.03 [0.31]). In the patient group, no significant difference was observed between senior high and junior high. For mothers' DSQ40, mature defense scores were significantly higher in the control group than in the patient group (mean [SD] = 10.8 [1.89] vs 9.35 [1.40] in junior high, and 11.8 [1.67] vs 9.36 [1.81] in senior high, F [1,66] = 22.1, P < 0.001, two-way anova). A significant, positive correlation (r = 0.37, P = 0.04) was observed between the mothers' mature defense and the children's CRS scores in the control group only.

Conclusions:  Whatever diagnoses are provided, the problems of adolescents with non-psychotic pathologies are related to the arrest of object relations development. A patient's mother cannot employ mature mechanisms to alleviate signals of anxiety sent by her child.