Dissociation as a mediator of child abuse across generations

Byron R Egeland, Amy Susman-Stillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


To test the hypothesis that dissociative process is the mechanism that accounts for the transmission of maltreatment across generations, a group of mothers who were abused and maltreated their children were compared to a group of mothers who broke the cycle of abuse. Mothers who were abused and are abusing their children were rated higher on idealization, inconsistency, and escapism in their description of their childhood and they scored higher on the Dissociative Experience Scale compared to mothers who broke the cycle. Mothers who were abused and abused their children recalled the care they received as children in a fragmented and disconnected fashion whereas those who broke the cycle integrated their abusive experience into a more coherent view of self. Even after partialing out the effects of IQ, large differences were found indicating that dissociative process plays a part in the transmission of maltreatment across generations. Possible reasons why some maltreated individuals coped with the trauma by dissociating and others integrate the experience were discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1123
Number of pages1
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1996


  • Breaking- the-cycle
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Dissociation
  • Intergenerational cycle


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