Free practice to
prepare you for the social work licensing exam.
A clinician is working with a seven-year-old who has
been sexually assaulted by a neighbor. The neighbor is now in
prison. The child's mother reports that the child often hits her
and screams, "I hate you!" Which ego defense mechanism is the child
What do you think?
Taking the answers one by one:
Repression refers to an unconscious forgetting or
pulling an unpleasant memory or event into the subconscious. The
child in this scenario shows no signs of repression.
Sublimation is acting out one's feelings in a socially
acceptable manner. The boy in this scenario is acting out
violently, so he's not sublimating.
Projection involves projecting things about yourself
onto someone or something else. For instance, a mother who is
worried about leaving her children with a certain babysitter may
say something like, "The dog doesn't like her," instead of
admitting her own concerns.
That leaves one answer:
Displacement involves taking one's feelings towards one
person or thing and acting them out on another, safer, person or
thing. The classic example is the man who goes home and kicks his
dog after a fight with his boss. The child in this scenario is
taking out his anger towards the babysitter on the mother.
Of course, the child may have legitimate grievances with the
mother. It's possible that a defense mechanism isn't being
demonstrated in the vignette. But even a question that may have a
better answer requires that you choose from one of the answers
provided. In this case, that's C, displacement.
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