Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory





Definition

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2; MMPI-A) is a written psychological assessment , or test, used to diagnose mental disorders.

Purpose

The MMPI is used to screen for personality and psychosocial disorders in adults (i.e., over age 18) and adolescents age 14 to 18. It is also frequently administered as part of a neuropsychological test battery to evaluate cognitive functioning.

Description

The original MMPI was developed at the University of Minnesota and introduced in 1942. The current standardized version for adults 18 and over, the MMPI-2, was released in 1989, with a subsequent revision of certain test elements in early 2001. The MMPI-A, a version of the inventory developed specifically for adolescents age 14 to 18, was published in 1992.

The adolescent inventory is shorter than the standard adult version, was developed at a sixth-grade reading level, and is geared towards adolescent issues and personality "norms." The MMPI-A has 478 true/false items, or questions, (compared to 567 items on the MMPI-2) and takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete (compared to 60 to 90 minutes for the MMPI-2). There is also a short form of the test that is comprised of the first 350 items from the long-form MMPI-A.

The questions asked on the MMPI-A are designed to evaluate the thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and behavioral traits that comprise personality. The results of the test reflect an adolescent's personality strengths and weaknesses, and may identify certain disturbances of personality (psychopathologies) or mental deficits caused by neurological problems.

There are eight validity scales and ten basic clinical or personality scales scored in the MMPI-A, and a number of supplementary scales and subscales that may be used with the test. The validity scales are used to determine whether the test results are actually valid (i.e., if the test taker was truthful, answered cooperatively and not randomly) and to assess the test taker's response style (i.e., cooperative, defensive). Each clinical scale uses a set or subset of MMPI-A questions to evaluate a specific personality trait. Some were designed to assess potential problems that are associated with adolescence , such as eating disorders, social problems, family conflicts, and alcohol or chemical dependency.

Precautions

The MMPI should be administered, scored, and interpreted by a qualified clinical professional trained in its use, preferably a psychologist or psychiatrist. The MMPI is only one element of psychological assessment, and should never be used as the sole basis for a diagnosis. A detailed history of the test subject and a review of psychological, medical, educational, or other relevant records are required to lay the groundwork for interpreting the results of any psychological measurement.

Cultural and language differences in the test subject may affect test performance and may result in inaccurate MMPI results. The test administrator should be informed before psychological testing begins if the test taker is not fluent in English and/or has a unique cultural background.

Preparation

The administrator should provide the test subject with information on the nature of the test and its intended use, and complete standardized instructions for taking the MMPI (including any time limits, and information on the confidentiality of the results).

The MMPI should be scored and interpreted by a trained professional. When interpreting test results for test subjects, the test administrator will review what the test evaluates, its precision in evaluation and any margins of error involved in scoring, and what the individual scores mean in the context of overall norms for the test and the background of the test subject.

Risks

There are no risks involved in taking the MMPI. However, parents should try to make sure the test is properly administered, and the results evaluated appropriately, to avoid an unnecessary negative label on their child.

Parental concerns

Test anxiety can have an impact on a child's performance, so parents should attempt to take the stress off their child by making sure they understand that the MMPI is not an achievement test and the child's honest answers are all that is required. Parents can also ensure

Sample profile from the Content scales profile of the MMPI-Adolescent. Although the data is interpreted by trained professionals, this adolescents score shows a low self-esteem and probable family problems. (Illustration by GGS Information Serv
Sample profile from the Content scales profile of the MMPI-Adolescent. Although the data is interpreted by trained professionals, this adolescent's score shows a low self-esteem and probable family problems.
(Illustration by GGS Information Services.)
that their children are well-rested on the testing day and have a nutritious meal beforehand.

When interpreting test results for parents, the test administrator will review what the test evaluates, its precision in evaluation and any margins of error involved in scoring, and what the individual scores mean in the context of overall norms for the test and the background of the adolescent.

See also Psychological tests .

Resources

BOOKS

Braaten, Ellen and Gretchen Felopulos. Straight Talk About Psychological Testing for Kids. New York: Guilford Press, 2003.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Psychological Association. Testing and Assessment Office of the Science Directorate. 750 First St., N.E., Washington, DC 20002–4242. (202)336–6000. Web site: http://www.apa.org/science/testing.html.

WEB SITES

Pearson Assessments. The MMPI-A. Available online at: http://www.pearsonassessments.com/tests/mmpia.htm (accessed September 10, 2004).

Paula Ford-Martin

KEY TERMS

Neuropsychological testing —Tests used to evaluate patients who have experienced a traumatic brain injury, brain damage, or organic neurological problems (e.g., dementia). It may also be used to evaluate the progress of a patient who has undergone treatment or rehabilitation for a neurological injury or illness.

Norms —A fixed or ideal standard; a normative or mean score for a particular age group.

Psychopathology —The study of mental disorders or illnesses, such as schizophrenia, personality disorder, or major depressive disorder.

Standardization —The process of determining established norms and procedures for a test to act as a standard reference point for future test results.

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