Children, Trauma, and Dissociation

A new study published in the journal Psychological Trauma examined adolescent traumatization and the impact of various types of trauma on dissociative experiences in a sample of 239 Swedish youngsters, 13 to 20 years of age, with diverse socioeconomic and migration backgrounds. The researchers also evaluated whether the type of worst lifetime trauma was associated with higher rates of dissociation.  Statistical analysis was carried out on quantitative and qualitative data on posttraumatic stress, dissociative experiences, and potentially traumatic events (PTEs), including participants’ written descriptions of their worst lifetime trauma. Results showed that most (92%) of the participants had been exposed to at least 1 PTE and 51% to 4 or more, during their life. Number of PTEs correlated with symptoms of posttraumatic stress and dissociation. There were higher rates of dissociation among economically vulnerable and second-generation war refugee participants. Emotional abuse by others (mostly peers) was the only significant predictor of dissociation when controlling for gender, age, total PTEs, posttraumatic stress, and poverty. Moderation analyses showed that lifetime worst traumas categorized as primarily emotional moderated and amplified the relation between total PTEs and dissociation, but only among girls. The research findings indicate that traumatization is very common among adolescents, with greater prevalence of dissociation among vulnerable groups, and that emotional traumas are linked to higher rates of dissociation, especially among girls. Researchers, clinicians, and school personnel need to focus more on immigrant status and low SES as vulnerability factors, and address the consequences of emotional abuse, including bullying, among adolescents. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

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