Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Childhood Maltreatment and Intimate Partner Violence in Dissociative Disorder Patients

Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Childhood Maltreatment and Intimate Partner Violence in Dissociative Disorder Patients

Article excerpt


Childhood maltreatment and intimate partner violence in dissociative disorder patients

Aliya R. Webermann, Bethany L. Brand* and Gregory S. Chasson

Department of Psychology, Towson University, Towson, MD, USA


Background : Childhood maltreatment (CM) is a risk factor for subsequent intimate partner violence (IPV) in adulthood, with high rates of retrospectively reported CM among IPV victims and perpetrators. A theorized mechanism of the link between CM and IPV is dissociation. Dissociation may allow perpetrators of violence to remain emotionally distant from their behavior and minimize empathy toward those they victimize, enabling them to commit acts of violence similar to their own experiences. Indeed, elevated rates of dissociation and dissociative disorders (DD) have been found among IPV survivors and perpetrators. In addition, in pilot studies, DD clinicians have reported high levels of violent behavior among DD patients.

Objective : The present study investigates IPV among DD patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder and Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, a group with CM rates of 80-95% and severe dissociative symptoms.

Methods : DD clinicians reported on rates of CM and IPV among 275 DD patients in outpatient treatment. DD patients also completed a self-report measure of dissociation. Analyses assessed the associations between CM typologies and IPV, as well as trait dissociation and IPV.

Results : Physical and emotional child abuse were associated with physical IPV, and childhood witnessing of domestic violence (DV) and childhood neglect were associated with emotional IPV.

Conclusions : The present study is the first to provide empirical support for a possible CM to adult IPV developmental trajectory among DD patients. Future research is needed to better understand the link between CM and IPV among those with trauma and DD.

Keywords: Dissociation; dissociative identity disorder; dissociative disorders; intimate partner violence; domestic violence; childhood maltreatment; childhood abuse

Responsible Editor: Sheila Sprague, McMaster University, Canada.

*Correspondence to: Bethany L. Brand, Department of Psychology, Towson University, 8000 York Road, Towson, MD 21252, USA, Email:

For the abstract or full text in other languages, please see Supplementary files under Article Tools online

This paper is part of the Special Issue: Intimate partner violence and mental health . More papers from this issue can be found at

Received: 7 April 2014; Revised: 23 June 2014; Accepted: 16 July 2014; Published: 12 September 2014

European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2014. © 2014 Aliya R. Webermann et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) License (, allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, and to remix, transform, and build upon the material, for any purpose, even commercially, under the condition that appropriate credit is given, that a link to the license is provided, and that you indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

Citation: European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2014, 5 : 24568 -

Intimate partner violence (IPV), which encompasses physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional harm from a current or former partner, is a frequent and harmful occurrence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). Within the United States, in their lifetime, one in four women and one in seven men endure severe physical abuse, one in five women and 1 in 71 men experience rape, and about half of men and women experience psychological aggression (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). …

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