Childhood Trauma and Distress Tolerance in a Trauma-Exposed Acute-Care Psychiatric Inpatient Sample

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Abstract

Objective: Distress tolerance (DT; the perceived or actual ability to withstand negative internal states) has emerged as a promising transdiagnostic risk factor in clinically severe populations. However, little is known about etiological factors associated with the development of DT. We hypothesized that greater levels of childhood trauma would be associated with lower perceived and behavioral DT, beyond theoretically relevant covariates. Method: The current investigation evaluated several childhood trauma types (i.e., physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect) in relation to perceived (i.e., self-report) and behavioral DT in a sample of 87 trauma-exposed adults in acute-care psychiatric inpatient treatment. Results: Results of hierarchical linear regression models indicated that greater childhood physical abuse and emotional neglect were significantly associated with higher perceived DT. Greater levels of emotional abuse were associated with lower perceived DT, and greater physical neglect was associated with lower behavioral DT. Conclusions: DT may be differentially influenced by different forms of childhood trauma.

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