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Alexithymia and Psychological Defenses: A Meta-Analysis Open Access

A meta-analysis was conducted to determine the association between alexithymia and psychological defensiveness, and to assess the influence of the psychological maturity reflected in the defense type indexed by each effect size included in the analyses. An exhaustive search of the literature yielded a total sample of 22 studies that contributed 60 independent effect sizes. Analyses using both fixed-effects and random-effects models obtained moderate positive associations between alexithymia and overall defensiveness (rs = .22; .20) as well as between alexithymia and neurotic defenses (rs = .33; .30). A strong positive association was obtained between alexithymia and immature defenses (rs = .55; .54); a moderate negative association was observed between alexithymia and mature defenses (rs = -.34; -.30). These findings held when effect sizes indexing the three defense styles corresponding to maturity level were analyzed separately. Moderator analyses indicated that both participant diagnostic classification and defense style maturity influenced the magnitude of the effect between alexithymia and defensiveness. These findings are consistent with previous literature in which alexithymia is thought to involve defensive operations that reflect use of archaic psychological processes.

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