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Jul 14, 2024, 09:33:24 PM

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MMPI Scales: Interpretation of High Scores

The MMPI is one of the standard tests that is often given in the course of custody evaluations. Abnormally elevated scores on certain scales are considered to be indicative of various kinds of metal illness.
Listed here are the various scales that the MMPI test uses to assess the test-taker's psychopathology (symptoms known to be exhibited by certain groups of mentally disturbed people). Across from each scale is the generally accepted interpretation of what a high score on that scale means.

What many evaluators and mental health professionals fail to take into account when giving psychological tests is the effect that a contentious divorce or custody battle has on the person taking the test. Normal responses may be skewed or distorted in a person undergoing the mental and emotional stresses that accompany divorce. For example, an elevated "Depression (D)" score indicates that the "subject is unhappy, depressed, and pessimistic" -not an unusual state of mind for someone going through a divorce.

In some instances, answering certain questions in a frank manner while divorce and custody issues are a central fixture in one's life may produce a high score on the "Paranoia (Pa)" scale ("subject has strong, irrational suspicions and overestimates own importance"). Some of the questions that could trigger an elevated "Paranoia (Pa)" score are "Someone has it in for me", "I know who is responsible for most of my troubles", and "The future is too uncertain for a person to make serious plans". In the context of a highly conflicted divorce, every one of those statements could be answered "yes" and the answers would likely be valid. Lets face it: Someone does have it in for you, and you do know who is responsible for most of your troubles- your ex.

If you take an MMPI (or other test) and do poorly, obtain a copy of the test results in question and examine the relevancy of the elevated scores to the stresses in your environment. It's quite possible that the responses you gave (that might normally be cause for concern) are entirely reasonable when viewed in the light of divorce related stresses.

For a more thorough explanation of this subject, read Misuse of Psychological Tests in Forensic Settings: Some Horrible Examples.

Validity Scale and Abbreviation Interpretation of High Scores
Validity Scale  
Cannot say (?) Subject is evasive or indecisive.
Lie (L) Subject tends to present self in idealized or overly virtuous manner.
Frequency (F) Subject is confused, answering randomly, or trying to
fake symptoms.  A high score on this scale suggests the profile is
Correction (K) Subject is defensive and attempting to obscure symptoms.
Clinical Scale  
1. Hypochondriasis (Hs) Subject is unrealistically concerned with physical complaints.
2. Depression (D) Subject is unhappy, depressed, and pessimistic.
3. Hysteria (Hy) Subject focuses on vague physical symptoms to avoid dealing with severe psychological stress.
4. Psychopathic deviate (Pd) Subject's social interactions indicate emotional shallowness,
rebelliousness, and disregard for law or conventional morality.
5. Masculinity-Femininity (Mf) Subject shows interests and behaviors usually associated with opposite sex role.
6. Paranoia (Pa) Subject has strong, irrational suspicions and overestimates
own importance.
7. Psychasthenia (Pt) Subject is tense, rigid, anxious and may have obsessive
thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
8. Schizophrenia (Sc) Subject is withdrawn, experiences distortions of reality
and dresses and acts bizarrely.
9. Hypomania (Ma) Subject is outgoing, impulsive overly active, and excited.
0. Social introversion-extroversion (Si) Subject is withdrawn, shy, inhibited, and self-effacing.

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