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Journal Article


Schalinski I, Teicher MH. PLoS One 2015; 10(5): e0127151.


Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America; Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, United States of America.


(Copyright © 2015, Public Library of Science)






Dissociation, particularly the shutting down of sensory, motor and speech systems, has been proposed to emerge in susceptible individuals as a defensive response to traumatic stress. In contrast, other individuals show signs of hyperarousal to acute threat. A key question is whether exposure to particular types of stressful events during specific stages of development can program an individual to have a strong dissociative response to subsequent stressors. Vulnerability to ongoing shutdown dissociation was assessed in 75 inpatients (46M/29F, M = 31±10 years old) with schizophrenia spectrum disorder and related to number of traumatic events experienced or witnessed during childhood or adulthood. The Maltreatment and Abuse Chronology of Exposure (MACE) scale was used to collect retrospective recall of exposure to ten types of maltreatment during each year of childhood. Severity of shutdown dissociation was related to number of childhood but not adult traumatic events. Random forest regression with conditional trees indicated that type and timing of childhood maltreatment could predictably account for 31% of the variance (p < 0.003) in shutdown dissociation, with peak vulnerability occurring at 13-14 years of age and with exposure to emotional neglect followed by various forms of emotional abuse. These findings suggest that there may be windows of vulnerability to the development of shutdown dissociation.

RESULTS support the hypothesis that experienced events are more important than witnessed events, but challenge the hypothesis that "life-threatening" events are a critical determinant.

Language: en


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