Dibs: Axline, 1964

the study in detail, and an evaluation

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  • Created by: Ness
  • Created on: 14-03-12 12:29


The aim of Axline's 1964 study of Dibs was to help a young boy, aged 5, called Dibs. Dibs seemed to be not full filling his potential as he wasn't interacting with others and 'unlocking' his problems. 

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Case Background

Dibs was refered to Axline, a clinical psychologist as he appeared to have learning difficulties but was very bright and could read well.

Most of the qualitative data in Axline's study comes from sessions with the child, and from sessions with Dibs' parents.

Psychoanalysis was not used, at least not how Freud had designed it.

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Case Description

Dibs lived with his parents and younger sister. His parents where clever people, but they did not plan to have children and had difficulty dealing with Dibs. The school also had difficulty as he was uncoperative and spoke rarely. he would not want to go home, he would not speak to other children, but Axline found that his reading and writing abilities when higher than most children.

The strategy that Axline used was that she saw him once a week, where he was not guided and he could speek freely. No pressure was placed on him as no questions were asked.

From speaking to his mother, Axline found out that she expected him to get everything right, and his father would tell him not to be stupid and would criticise him, and appeared not to love him.

In play therapy, a toy soldier was called 'papa', but 'papa' was locked away sometimes. Locking doors were commonly talked about by Dibs.

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Case Analysis

Interprtation was avoided as she did not ask Dibs any questions, in order to obtain objective data. Dibs seemed to work through his anger, and symbols like the 'papa' soldier proved this.

The study could be evidence for the Oedipus complex, as at the age of 5, a boy in the phallic stage would want to get rid of his father, which is proved from the symbol of the 'papa' soldier, but Axline does not link the evidence to the Oedipus complex in her analysis.

It could be suggested that Dibs' behaviour before therapy was because the id's demands were being surpressed by an over-controlling superego. This could be because of the weight of his parents expectations. Through play therapy, the balance between id, ego and superego was leveled out.

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the conclusion drawn from the study show that problems arise when the id, ego and superego are not in balance with eachother. it also shows that play therapy can be used to cure this.

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Evaluation: Strengths

As with all case studies, Dibs generated qualitative data, which was rich, detailed and in depth, and also Dibs' own responses were included in the analysis. As well as this, the study was triangulational, so it employed many different methods of collecting data, so there is opportunities for a test of validity.

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Evaluation: Weaknesses

Reliablity is compromised as it cannot be tested, Dibs will not be a child again so it cannot be repeated. Also, in some respects, the study of Dibs is hard to apply to the psychodynamic approach theory, even though it mentions a model of personality (id/ego/superego), and the role of the unconsious.

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