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Dev Psychopathol. 1997 Fall;9(4):855-79.

Development and the fragmented self: longitudinal study of dissociative symptomatology in a nonclinical sample.

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  • 1Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455, USA.


Dissociative behaviors and their relation to both the self and self-organization were examined using the developmental psychopathology perspective in a prospective longitudinal study of high-risk children. Participants were 168 young adults (n = 79 females, n = 89 males, age = 18-19 years) considered high-risk for poor developmental outcomes at birth due to poverty. The present study investigated whether trauma, sense of self, quality of early mother-child relationship, temperament, and intelligence were related to dissociative symptomatology measured at four times across 19 years. Findings were (a) age of onset, chronicity and severity of trauma were highly correlated and predicted level of dissociation; (b) both the avoidant and disorganized patterns of attachment were strong predictors of dissociation; (c) dissociation in childhood may be a more normative response to disruption and stress, while dissociation in adolescence and young adulthood may be more indicative of psychopathology; (d) preliminary support was found for a model proposed by G. Liotti that links disorganized attachment, later trauma, and dissociation in adulthood; and (e) strong support was found for N. Waller, F. W. Putnam, and E. B. Carlson's contention that psychopathological dissociation should not be viewed as the top end of a continuum of dissociative symptomatology, but as a separate taxon that represents an extreme deviation from normal development.

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