Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Radhika Krishnamurthy

Second Advisor

Travis Conradt

Third Advisor

John Lavelle

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Steelman


There is a paucity of research on the personality test profiles of physically abusive parents. Given that personality assessment is typically a major component of dependency evaluations, the lack of studies in this area represents a significant gap in understanding personality-based factors contributing to physical abuse perpetration. Considering research findings of high levels of defensiveness found in profiles of parents undergoing child custody evaluations, it is reasonable to expect the same for parents involved in substantiated cases of child physical abuse. The current research was designed to examine the level of defensiveness in Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2-Restructured Form (MMPI-2-RF) profiles of physically abusive parents. Subsequently, the current research aimed to establish optimal cutting scores for the MMPI-2-RF Restructured Clinical (RC) scales for physically abusive parents to adjust for defensiveness and denial of personal problems. The central sample for the study consisted of 62 parents who had a substantiated allegation of child physical abuse. This sample was expected to respond defensively via elevated scores on scales Lie (L-r) and Correction (K-r). This hypothesis was largely confirmed, particularly in terms of high L-r scores. It was also hypothesized that RC scale scores would be suppressed for the Physical Abuse sample, which was found for the majority of RC scales, with some exceptions. The study also employed two comparison samples: a nonabusive child custody sample (N=64) and a nonabusive community sample (N=61). Comparison between the three groups indicated the Physical Abuse group was the most defensive, most significantly differentiated by L-r. In keeping with the primary goal of the study, Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) analyses were conducted to establish optimal cutting scores for the RC scales for physically abusive parents. These were derived from score comparisons of the Physical Abuse and Community samples. Optimal cutting scores ranged from T=47 to T=59, and were predominantly at or below the MMPI-2-RF normative mean. These optimal cutting scores are intended for use in evaluations to adjust for defensive responding among physically abusive parents. Implications of these findings are discussed.