Dissociation in maltreated versus nonmaltreated preschool-aged children

Jenny Macfie, Dante Cicchetti, Sheree L. Toth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Objective: Dissociation is linked to the experience of child maltreatment for adults and for school-aged children. The goals of the current paper were: First, to extend existing research and examine the link between child maltreatment and preschool-aged children; and second, to examine which sub-groups of maltreated preschoolers are most likely to evidence dissociation. Method: A well-validated measure of dissociation in children, The Child Dissociative Checklist (CDC; Putnam, Helmers, & Trickett, 1993), was utilized in a sample of low SES maltreated and nonmaltreated preschoolers (N=198). A measure of internalizing and externalizing symptoms was also utilized. The maltreated children were assessed for sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and also for severity, chronicity, and multiple subtypes of maltreatment. Results: The sexually abused, physically abused, and neglected groups each demonstrated more dissociation than did the nonmaltreated group. Dissociation in the clinical (psychopathological) range was associated with physical abuse. Moreover, maltreatment severity, chronicity, multiple subtypes, and internalizing and externalizing symptomatology were each related to dissociation. Conclusions: Child maltreatment is a factor in dissociation in preschool-aged children as it is in older children and in adults. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, severity, and chronicity are all implicated. Developmentally sensitive interventions that look beyond comorbidity with behavioral symptoms for dissociative preschool-aged children are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1253-1267
Number of pages15
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this work and the research described here were supported in part by grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Network for Early Childhood Transitions and the Spunk Fund, Inc., awarded to Dante Cicchetti and Sheree L. Toth, and also by a grant (NICHD HD07376) awarded to Jenny Macfie.

Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Dissociation
  • Maltreatment
  • Preschoolers

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