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Quality of Early Care and Childhood Trauma: A Prospective Study of Developmental Pathways to Dissociation

Dutra, Lissa PhD*; Bureau, Jean-Francois PhD; Holmes, Bjarne PhD; Lyubchik, Amy PhD; Lyons-Ruth, Karlen PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: June 2009 - Volume 197 - Issue 6 - p 383-390
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181a653b7
Original Article

Kihlstrom (2005) has recently called attention to the need for prospective longitudinal studies of dissociation. The present study assesses quality of early care and childhood trauma as predictors of dissociation in a sample of 56 low-income young adults followed from infancy to age 19. Dissociation was assessed with the Dissociative Experiences Scale; quality of early care was assessed by observer ratings of mother-infant interaction at home and in the laboratory; and childhood trauma was indexed by state-documented maltreatment, self-report, and interviewer ratings of participants’ narratives. Regression analysis indicated that dissociation in young adulthood was significantly predicted by observed lack of parental responsiveness in infancy, while childhood verbal abuse was the only type of trauma that added to the prediction of dissociation. Implications are discussed in the context of previous prospective work also pointing to the important contribution of parental emotional unresponsiveness in the development of dissociation.

*Department of Psychology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts; and †Harvard Medical School, Cambridge Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Supported by NIH grants MH035122 and MH062030.

Send reprint requests to Lissa Dutra, PhD, Department of Psychology, Boston University, 64 Cummington St, Boston, MA 02215. E-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.