Symptoms of dissociative disorder in children and adolescents

Judith R Goodman, Pace University


The purpose of this study is to explore the development of dissociative disorders in childhood and adolescence. Dissociative disorders are a result of childhood trauma, and are characterized by the splitting of thoughts or feelings from behavior. This study examined behavioral, social, emotional and personality factors related to dissociation in children and adolescents in a residential treatment setting. This study explored whether traumatized children who dissociate, in contrast to those who do not dissociate, are more likely to have a history of sexual abuse, display more withdrawn, anxious and depressed behavior, evidence greater signs of poor peer relations, and reveal more depression and greater gender identity conflict. Sixty one subjects were selected from the general population of boys residing at the Children's Village, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed boys. Two groups of boys, dissociatives and non-dissociatives, were identified based upon scores on the Child Dissociative Checklist (CDC) supplied by cottage staff. Trauma history, obtained from case records, was classified in terms of abandonment, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and absence of trauma. The Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) was used to assess behavior problems; Sociograms were used to identify social problems; the Child Depression Inventory (CDI) was used to assess depression; and figure drawings were obtained from the two groups to assess gender identity conflict. Results showed that boys in the dissociative group were almost 1 1/2 years younger than the comparison sample at time of admission. Results from an analysis of variance indicated a significantly greater number of boys in the dissociative group had a history of documented physical abuse. On the Achenbach Child Behavior Check List, the dissociative population was found to have significantly higher scores on attention problems, thought problems and withdrawn behavior The internalizing scale, a composite of withdrawn, somatic complaints and anxiety/depression, was also significantly higher for the dissociative population. Controls, traumatized boys who do not dissociate, were rated significantly more positive in peer relations than the boys in the dissociative group. Significantly higher scores were received by the dissociative group in the areas of Anhedonia, Negative Interpersonal Relations, Negative Self-Esteem and the overall index on the Child Depression Inventory. The correlations between test instruments tapping similar content were weak and not statistically significant.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Goodman, Judith R, "Symptoms of dissociative disorder in children and adolescents" (1996). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9620769.



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