Coping and defending: Age differences in maturity of defence mechanisms and coping strategies

  • Whitty M
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Abstract

Previous studies have examined either coping strategies or defence mechanisms; however, few have considered both. This research examined age differences in the type of defence mechanisms and coping strategies that people employ. In addition, gender differences, personality, and environmental variables were taken into account. The three age groups used in this study included: 17-23 year olds, 40-47 year olds, and 63-70 year olds. The youngest participants used significantly less mature defence mechanisms and significantly more immature defence mechanisms than the middle-aged and the oldest group. However, there was no significant difference in maturity of defence mechanisms between the middle-aged and the oldest group. In contrast, there were no age differences revealed for effectiveness of coping strategies people employ. One further interesting finding was that people with a higher purpose in life were more likely to use mature defence mechanisms. This research concludes that when developing theories on stress, psychologists might benefit from considering both defence mechanisms and coping strategies.

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