Objective: To examine the relationship between childhood trauma and dissociative experience in adulthood in patients with borderline personality disorder.
Method: Dissociative experiences scale scores and subscale scores for the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire were correlated in 139 patients. Patients were dichotomized into high or low dissociators using the Median Dissociative Experiences Scale score as the cut-off.
Results: Childhood Trauma Questionnaire Subscale scores for emotional and physical abuse and emotional neglect but not sexual abuse correlated significantly with Dissociative Experiences Scale scores. High dissociators reported significantly greater levels of emotional abuse, physical abuse, emotional neglect and physical neglect but not sexual abuse than low dissociators.
Conclusion: Patients with borderline personality disorder therefore demonstrated levels of dissociation that increased with levels of childhood trauma, supporting the hypothesis that traumatic childhood experiences engender dissociative symptoms later in life. Emotional abuse and neglect may be at least as important as physical and sexual abuse in the development of dissociative symptoms.