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Dent, L. Christian, C. (2019). The Shifting Prevalence of Conflict in Psychoanalytic Literature: A Brief Report of a Corpus-Based Text Analysis. Psychoanal. Psychol., 36(2):184-188.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 36(2):184-188

Brief Report

The Shifting Prevalence of Conflict in Psychoanalytic Literature: A Brief Report of a Corpus-Based Text Analysis

Loren Dent, Ph.D. and Christopher Christian, Ph.D.

Several scholars have suggested that with the growing pluralism in psychoanalytic thinking, the classical concept of psychic conflict is on the decline in the analytic literature, displaced by a growing emphasis on alternative conceptions of psychopathology, including deficit models, attachment theory, and relational perspectives. The present study utilized a corpus-based analysis to a sample of the psychoanalytic literature to test the assumption that conflict theory is in decline. Based on the literature, the authors explored (a) whether the use of conflict and related terms has in fact declined in recent decades and (b) the ascendance of competing theoretical constructs. To complete the analysis, a corpus was derived from every published article by the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association between years 1953 and 2010. A customized dictionary was created, comprised of variations of conflict (e.g., conflicts, conflicting, conflicted, conflictual) as well as additional metapsychological terms (e.g., ego, defense, repression, drive, relational, intersubjective). The authors used linguistic inquiry and word count to complete a simple frequency analysis of dictionary terms. Results suggested that mentions of conflict in a major psychoanalytic journal rose from the early 1950s and peaked in the early 1980s, followed by a persistent decline. Furthermore, results indicated an inverse relationship in the past 25 years between conflict and alternative constructs from attachment and relational theories, suggesting that the increased popularity of such alternatives may have contributed to the decline of conflict theory.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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