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Behav Res Ther. 2001 Mar;39(3):245-54.

The causal link between self-reported trauma and dissociation: a critical review.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.


The idea that traumatic experiences cause dissociative symptoms is a recurrent theme in clinical literature. The present article summarizes evidence that cast doubts on the commonly voiced view that the connection between self-reported trauma and dissociation is a simple and robust one. It is argued that: (1) the correlations between self-reported traumatic experiences and dissociative symptoms reported in the literature are, at best, modest; (2) other factors may act as a third variable in the relationship between trauma and dissociation; and (3) high scores on the Dissociative Experiences Scale are accompanied by fantasy proneness, heightened suggestibility, and susceptibility to pseudomemories. These correlates of dissociation may promote a positive response bias to retrospective self-report instruments of traumatic experiences. Thus, the possibility that dissociation encourages self-reported traumatic experiences rather than vice versa merits investigation. While attractive, simple models in which trauma directly causes dissociation are unlikely to be true.

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