The Developmental Profile

LifePath_SilkWorm_VerSoie_Seidenraupe_1845The Developmental Profile is a manifestation of current efforts to standardise psychodynamic personality diagnostics, thus making it accessible for empirical research. Anna Freud (1963) introduced the concept. Other researchers in this field are Loevinger & Wessler (1970), Bellak et al. (1973), Kernberg (1981), and Luborsky & Crits-Cristoph (1990).

The frame of reference of the Developmental Profile is developmental psychology, based on the various phases in the development of behaviour. The behaviour of the adult is characterised by the degree to which he has developed adaptive behavioural patterns appropriate to his age, and the extent to which his behaviour is determined by “early” now maladaptive patterns. The profile scheme identifies ten developmental levels, the central themes of which are Lack of Structure, Fragmentation, Self-centredness, Symbiosis, Resistance, Rivalry, Individuation, Solidarity, Generativity and Maturity. Each level is characterised by nine developmental lines. These are concerned with Social Attitudes, Object Relations, Self-Images, Norms, Needs, Cognitions, Problem-Solving Behaviour and Miscellaneous Themes. Together the developmental levels and the developmental lines form a matrix of one hundred items. The behavioural patterns on the six ‘lower’ levels (Lack of Structure, Fragmentation, Self-centredness, Symbiosis, Resistance, and Rivalry) represent the maladaptive behavioural patterns, and the four ‘higher’ levels (Individuation, Solidarity, Generativity and Maturity) the adaptive behavioural patterns. In this way, the profile makes it possible to draw up a weakness/strength analysis, a survey of the presence of ‘immature’ or maladaptive behavioural patterns on the one hand, and ‘mature’ or adaptive behavioural patterns on the other (Abraham, 1993, 1997)

The information for the Developmental Profile is obtained by means of a semi-structured interview exploring the patients habitual behaviour during the last ten years. This interview largely corresponds to the customary clinical anamnesis. It includes the nature and duration of the symptoms or problems and the manner in which the patient deals with them; his life style, schooling and work; partner, children and other relationships; religious, political and other social activities; sport and hobbies; the way the patient reacts to events, which are stressful and furthermore his needs, and the situations in which he experiences anxiety, anger, guilt, shame and feelings of insufficiency. The patient is also asked to describe himself, and to indicate what he sees as the cause of his symptoms, what kind of help he expects, and how he has experienced the interview. Finally he is given an opportunity to make any additional remarks.

The information thus obtained is interpreted on the basis of a registration protocol. This protocol gives an operational definition for each behavioural pattern, i.e., a description in observational terms of the manifest behaviour, a clarification and a number of clinical examples. A four-point scale indicates the degree to which each pattern is part of the patient’s habitual behaviour (- absent, X present to a limited extent, XX clearly present, XXX very clearly present).

The results of psychometric tests concerning the interrater reliability, the internal reliability, the construct validity, the external validity and the discriminative validity are sufficient to good (Van et al 2000).

In summary, the Developmental Profile is a reliable and valid instrument. Practitioners who need to gain insight into the functional possibilities and limitations of their patients can use it. The latter situation may arise when reconstructive therapies such as psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic- or client-centered psychotherapy are being considered. But the Developmental Profile also provides relevant information for behavioural therapy, developing of strategies to improve the compliance of patients on medication, reporting on the motives underlying criminal acts.

Abraham, R.E. (1993). The developmental Profile: the psychodynamic diagnosis of personality. Journal of Personality Disorders 7 (2) p. 105-115.
Abraham, R.E. (1997). Het Ontwikkelingsprofiel, een psychodynamische diagnose van de persoonlijkheid. Assen: Van Gorcum.
Bellak, L. (1973) et al, H. Ego functions in schizophrenics, neurotics and normals. New York: Wiley, 1993
Freud A. (1963). ‘The concept of developmental lines’. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child XVIII. 245-265
Kernberg, O.F. (1981). Structural Interviewing. Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 4 (2) 169-195.
Loevinger, J. & Wessler R. (1970). Measuring Ego Development. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass Inc.
Luborsky, L. & Crits-Christoph P. (1990). Understanding Transference. The Core Conflictual Relationship Theme Method. New York. Basic Books Inc. Publishers.
Van, H.L. (2000), The Developmental Profile (offered for publication)