Evidence for Change in Children's Use of Defense Mechanisms


Address correspondence to Phebe Cramer, Department of Psychology, Williams College. Williamstown, MA 01267. Appreciation is expressed to Howard Tennen and to two reviewers for their helpful comments.


ABSTRACT Using a cohort-longitudinal design, children's use of the defeneses of denial. projection, and identification was assessed at four points over a 2-year time span, covering the age period from 6 years, 6 months to 9 years, 5 months. The results showed a clear decrease in the use of denial from early to middle childhood, a sharp increase in the use of projection, and an increase in the use of identification. These findings, predicted by a theory of defense mechanism development, are consistent with cross-sectional results reported previously.