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

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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.

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