alley 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 using?

A. Repression
B. Sublimation
C. Displacement
D. Projection

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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January 25, 2019