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January 1976

The Content and Structure of Adolescent Self-Images: Longitudinal Studies

Author Affiliations

From the Laboratory in Social Psychiatry, Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Boston.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1976;33(1):27-32. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1976.01770010015002

• Using a specially designed Q-sort technique, multiple self-images held by 60 normal and psychiatrically hospitalized adolescents were studied initially and then every six months for 12 to 18 months. Each subject's self-images were analyzed for their overall coherence (integration) and for the evaluation of specific self-descriptive statements.

The results showed that, as predicted clinically, the patients and normal subjects differed significantly on both integration and content evaluation dimensions. The patients had consistently lower integration scores on each trial, in contrast to the normal subjects' steadily increasing values. The patients evaluated their self-descriptive statements as steadily diminishing in importance while the normal subjects' evaluations remained at the same level over the trials. The patients' dual trends are discussed in terms of their reflecting the pattern of identity diffusion described clinically by Erikson.