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Kernberg, O.F. (1970). A Psychoanalytic Classification of Character Pathology. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 18:800-822.

(1970). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 18:800-822

A Psychoanalytic Classification of Character Pathology

Otto F. Kernberg, M.D.


In this paper I propose a classification of character pathology in the attempt (1) to establish psychoanalytic criteria for differential diagnoses among different types and degrees of severity of character

pathology; (2) to clarify the relationship between a descriptive characterological diagnosis and a metapsychological, especially structural, analysis; and (3) to arrange subgroups of character pathology according to their degree of severity.

This classification reflects a conviction as to the usefulness of a diagnostic study of patients involving structural and geneticdynamic considerations in addition to purely descriptive ones. The developments in psychoanalytic technique and in modified, psychoanalytically oriented procedures have provided us with a broad armamentarium of psychotherapeutic tools. The development of diagnostic criteria derived from psychoanalytic theory could improve our capacity for optimal individualization of psychological treatment.

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