NCE – Assessment Section (MMPI)

QUESTION: “Prepare a summary describing the content, use, validity, limitations, etc of each tool…compare and contrast the two tools.” 

(MMPI-2) “Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2”

Purpose & Use

The purpose of the MMPI-2 is to assess for patterns of personality indicative of a mental disorder in order to aid in treatment planning (Butcher, et al, 1990; Hays, 2013).  The MMPI-2 is the one of the most popular tests utilized by clinicians today and is the subject of extensive research (Hays, 2013).  It is intended for use in adults over the age of 18, may be administered individually, or in a group and takes approximately 90 minutes to complete (Butcher, et al, 1990).

MMPI-2 Content

The MMPI-2 represents the first revision of this test since 1942.  Completed in 1989, the MMPI-2 revisionary goals included: (1) updating the normative sample, (2) preserving the generalizability of past research, and (3) removing antiquated items (Butcher, 1942).  Ninety items were deleted from the original test and 85% of all items total were modified in some way, (Butcher, 1990).  The test contains clinical scales that indicate the presence mental health issues, and validity scales that measure a client’s attitudes while taking the test (Hays, 2013, p257).  The ten clinical scales in the MMPI-2 include: (1) hypochondriasis, (2) hysteria, (3) depression, (4) psychopathic deviate, (5) masculinity/femininity, (6) paranoia, (7) psychasthenia, (8) schizophrenia, (9) hypomania, and (10) social introversion (Hays, 2013, p257).  In contrast the validity scales measure the distortions in a client’s response and the degree to which they are either “faking bad…[or] faking good” (Hays, 2013, p101).

Normative Sample

The normative sample consists of 1,462 women and 1,138 men ranging in age from 18-84.  The sample is representative of the U.S. population in terms of age, relationship status, race/ethnicity, and geography (Butler, et al, 1990).  Nonetheless, Hays, (2013) states minority groups have obtained scores that vary significantly from the white population in research.  This is likely due to key cultural differences that must be accounted for in the interpretation of results (Hays, 2013).

Validity & Reliability

The MMPI-2 was designed utilizing a “logical content method” (Hays, 2013, p256).  This method involves the identification of items that appear to relate to the characteristics being assessed (i.e. hypochondriasis, depression, etc) (Hays, 2013).  The limitation of this method is the assumption of validity on “face value” (Hays, 2013, p256).  Additionally, efforts were not taken to re-evaluate the external validity of the MMPI-2 measures (Butler, et al, 1990).  However, the test consists of series of scales that are said to contain high levels of internal consistency, and face validity (Butler, et al, 1990).  Research is required to determine the level of external validity of the revised MMPI-2 (Butler, et al, 1990).

MMPI-2 Limitations

Changes in MMPI-2.

The cutoff T-score utilized to indicate the presence of psychological problems was dropped from 70 to 65 in the new MMPI-2 (Hays, 2013). This change is the result of substantial variations between the normative samples in the MMPI and MMPI-2.  According to the standards of the original MMPI, individuals from the MMPI-2 normative sample were appearing “too normal” (Butler, et al, 1990).  Therefore, while the MMPI-2 is very closely related to the MMPI, this degree of variation indicates they should not be treated as equivalent measures (Butler, et al, 1990).  Consequently further research is needed to determine how much of previous research is generalizable to the MMPI-2.

Limitations in the Normative Sample.

While the MMPI-2 normative sample is a significant improvement from the old version, it isn’t without flaws.  In the MMPI-2 normative sample, 50% of males and 42% of females have a bachelor’s degree or higher  (Butler, et al, 1990).  In contrast to the 1980 U.S. Census shows that 20% of males and just 13% of females were similarly educated (Butler, et al, 1990).    Since the 1980 U.S. Census, was a guideline upon which the normative sample was designed, this is a huge oversight (Butler, et al, 1990).    It presents a key limitation in the generalizability of results to certain segments of the population.

Diagnostic Limitations.

Hays, (2013) states that the MMPI-2 test cannot be used for diagnostic purposes to “classify individuals into psychiatric categories with a high degree of accuracy” (p257).  It provides a description of personality dimensions and typical behavioral patterns in an individual (Hays, 2013).

(DAPP-BQ) Dimensional Assessment of Personality Pathology

Purpose & Use

            The DAPP-BQ is a self-report questionnaire that is utilized to assess basic personality disorder in the clinical population.  The DAPP-BQ contains a normative sample of 2,726 individuals that allows for measurement adaptive personality traits.   Additionally, the DAPP-BQ contains a clinically diagnosed sample of 656 individuals recruited from both outpatient and inpatient settings (Livesley & Jackson, 2009).  This also allows for the assessment of maladaptive personality measures (Livesley & Jackson 2009).  Finally, since personality pathology is a frequent vulnerability factor of psychiatric disorders, it is useful in providing additional descriptive detail to an individual’s underlying psychopathology (Livesley & Jackson, 2009).

DAPP-BQ Content

DAPP-BQ consists of 290 items, developed based on a review of literature and review from a panel of experts (Livesley & Jackson, 2009).  Test items were designed to represent descriptive features of personality disorders and traits (Livesley & Jackson, 2009).    The 18 dimensions measured in the DAPP-BQ were developed to cut across an array of dimensions, based on the DSM-3 Manual (Livesley & Jackson, 2009).

DAPP-BQ Validity

Overall, the DAPP-BQ is a fairly valid measure of personality disorders, containing approximately 20 years of research evidence to support it (Livesley & Jackson, 2009).  The validity scales utilized in the MMPI-2 to assess for a client’s attitudes while taking a test are not available in this instrument. Since this test measures, only major elements of personality disorders from the DSM-3 manual, the “content validity [of the DAPP-BQ] should be taken with a grain of salt” (Livesley & Jackson, 2009, p9).   Nonetheless, this test does have good criterion validity, as determined by comparing this test with other measures utilized to assess similar constructs (Livesley & Jackson, 2009).

DAPP-BQ Limitations          

Little detail is given regarding the representativeness of the normative sample for the DAPP-BQ (Livesley & Jackson, 2009).  This naturally limits the generalizability of results.  Additionally, the DAPP-BQ doesn’t include general criteria for various personality disorders, and should not be utilized for diagnostic purposes (Livesley & Jackson, 2009).  Instead it is useful for fur\ther conceptualizing and understanding elements of individual personality pathology, once diagnosis is already made (Livesley & Jackson, 2009).

Comparison of MMPI-2 & DAPP-BQ

The MMPI-2 is utilized to assess for personality patterns indicative of a personality disorder and measures in ten broad areas including depression, paranoia, etc Butler, et al, 1990)  In contrast, the DAPP-BQ is designed to measure adaptive and maladaptive personality traits, and is based on information from the DSM-3 manual (Lively & Jackson, 2009).  Additionally, key differences can be found in the normative samples between these two tests.  the MMPI-2 normative sample was designed to reflect demographic data from the 1980 census (Butler, et al, 1990. The DAPP-BQ provides test users little information about its normative sample (Lively & Jackson, 2009).  Additionally, the DAPP-BQ utilizes a normative sample and clinically diagnosed group as a reference point for assessing adaptive and maladaptive personality traits (Lively & Jackson, 2009).  Finally, when comparing the validity of these two tests, the MMPI-2 appears to have a greater history of research in support of its validity (Butler, et al, 1990; Lively & Jackson, 2009).


Butcher, J. N., Dahlstrom, W. G., Graham, J. R., Tellegen, A., & Kaemmer, B. (1990). Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2.
Hays, D.G. (2013). Assessment in counseling a guide to the use of psychological assessment procedures (5th Ed.). Belmont, CA:  Brooks/Cole, Sengage Learning.
Livesley, W. J., & Jackson, D. N. (2009). Dimensional Assessment of Personality Pathology–Basic Questionnaire

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