When regression is used as a defense mechanism, individuals cope with stressors by acting in a childish, immature, or age-inappropriate manner, that is, they regress to earlier developmental stages, such as when it is normal to have excessive dependence or temper tantrums.
Chronic use of regression may lead to persistent avoidance of the hardships that a mature problem resolution would entail and to a great extent, the awareness thereof. Because regressing to cope with stressors is very likely ineffective in most cases, this defense must be generally seen as maladaptive. Regression might be strongly correlated with doubt, because it makes individuals too dependent on others to be assertive and make decisions easily (Weinstock 1967). However, sometimes regressions can be adaptive and make part of more mature personalities, such as in playfulness and creative imagination. These adaptive processes have been known as regression in service of the ego or ego...
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout
Purchases are for personal use onlyLearn about institutional subscriptions
Apter, A., Plutchik, R., Levy, S., Korn, M., Brown, S., & van Praag, H. (1989). Defense mechanism in risk of suicide and risk of violence. American Journal of Psychiatry, 146, 1027–1031.
Apter, A., Gothelf, D., Offer, R., Ratzoni, G., Orbach, I., Tyano, S., & Pfeffer, C. R. (1997). Suicidal adolescents and defense mechanisms. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 1520–1527.
Diehl, M., Chui, H., Hay, E. L., Lumley, M. A., Gruhn, D., & Labouvie-Vief, G. (2014). Change in coping and defense mechanisms across adulthood: Longitudinal findings in a European-American sample. Developmental Psychology, 50, 634–648.
Erikson, S. J., Feldman, S., & Steiner, H. (1996). Defense mechanisms and adjustment in normal adolescents. American Journal of Psychiatry, 153, 826–828.
Freud, S. (1905). Three essays on a theory of sexuality. In J. Strachey (Ed.), Standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. VII, pp. 125–245). London: The Hogarth Press.
Hart, D., & Chmiel, S. (1992). Influence of defense mechanisms on moral judgment development: A longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 28, 722–730.
Segal, D. L., Coolidge, F. L., & Mizuno, H. (2007). Defense mechanism differences between younger adults and older adults: A cross-sectional investigation. Aging & Mental Health, 11, 415–422.
Tatro, S. E., & Marshall, J. M. (1982). Regression: A defense mechanism for the dying older adult. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 8, 20–22.
Vaillant, G. E. (1976). Natural history of male psychological health. V. The relation of choice of ego mechanisms of defense to adult adjustment. Archives of General Psychiatry, 33, 535–545.
Weinstock, A. R. (1967). Family environment and the development of defense and coping mechanisms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, 67–75.
Editors and Affiliations
Section Editor information
© 2020 Springer Nature Switzerland AG
About this entry
Cite this entry
Costa, R.M. (2020). Regression (Defense Mechanism). In: Zeigler-Hill, V., Shackelford, T.K. (eds) Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24612-3_1422
Publisher Name: Springer, Cham
Print ISBN: 978-3-319-24610-9
Online ISBN: 978-3-319-24612-3