The relationship between family violence and dissociation in physically abused and non-abused adolescents

Rinat R Green, Pace University

Abstract

Empirical studies as well as clinical case reports indicate that children who are exposed to family violence are at greater risk for developing psychopathology. One aspect of psychopathology, which has been strongly associated with family violence, is dissociation. However, dissociation in children and adolescents has only recently begun receiving the attention it deserves from the clinical community. The purpose of this study is to determine the relationship between family violence and dissociation in adolescent targets of abuse. This is accomplished by comparing the level of dissociative experiences in adolescents who were physically abused (Abuse Group) with a matched sample of non-abused adolescents (Non-Abuse Group). It was hypothesized that physically abused adolescents will report more dissociative experiences than non-abused adolescents. This study also compares the level of dissociative experiences of physically abused adolescents living in households in which there were reports of inter-parental physical violence (Double-Exposure Group) with physically abused adolescents living in households in which there were no reports of inter-parental physical violence (Abuse-Alone Group) in order to assess whether the combined effect of physical abuse and inter-parental physical violence results in increased levels of dissociation.^ Participants for the physical abuse samples were recruited directly from the State Department of Social Services Abuse and Maltreatment Register after allegations of physical abuse were confirmed. The comparison sample was recruited from the same communities through random digit dialing by a marketing company, as part of a grant investigation by North Shore University Hospital, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and was matched by age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status.^ This study also investigated the relationship between gender and dissociative experiences, hypothesizing that adolescent females, will report more dissociative experiences than adolescent males. It was also hypothesized that physically abused adolescent females living in households in which inter-parental physical violence was reported will report more dissociative experiences than physically abused adolescent males with the same history, physically abused adolescent females and males living in households in which there were no reports of inter-parental physical violence, and non-abused adolescent females and males.^ Finally, this study also investigated, in an exploratory manner, the relationship between level of dissociation and psychopathology in physically abused adolescents. It was hypothesized that physically abused adolescents reporting a high level of dissociative experiences are more likely to meet criteria for clinical psychiatric diagnoses than physically abused adolescents reporting a low level of dissociative experiences. It was also hypothesized that gender and dissociation score will discriminate between physically abused adolescents meeting criteria for clinical psychiatric diagnoses and those who do not.^ Results. There were no significant differences on dissociation score between the Abuse and Non-Abuse groups or between the Double-Exposure, Abuse-Alone, and Non-Abuse groups. Similarly, there were no significant differences on dissociation between males and females in any of the diagnostic groups. However, physically abused adolescents reporting a high level of dissociation were more likely to meet criteria for Lifetime Cigarette Smoking, and Lifetime Overanxious Disorder. Furthermore, gender and dissociation score were able to discriminate between adolescents who report Lifetime Cigarette Smoking and those that do not. Adolescent females were significantly more likely to report Lifetime Cigarette Smoking than males. Implications for diagnostic assessments and treatment of physically abused adolescents, as well as directions for future research, are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Rinat R Green, "The relationship between family violence and dissociation in physically abused and non-abused adolescents" (January 1, 1998). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI9840685.
http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI9840685

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