Links between dissociation and role play in a nonclinical sample of preschool children

Stephanie M. Carlson, Deniz Tahiroglu, Marjorie Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Children's role play activities are included in symptom checklists of dissociative disorders, yet little is known about the potential relation between individual differences in role play and dissociative behaviors in normative development. This issue was examined in a study of 147 children aged 3 and 4 from a nonclinical population. Parents completed the Child Dissociative Checklist (CDC; F. W. Putnam, K. Helmers, & P. K. Trickett, 1993) and a questionnaire about their child's role play, fears, behavior problems, and dreams. Children were also interviewed about these same items. Dissociation was significantly related to parent report of fears, problem behaviors, and nightmares. These results are consistent with the view that CDC scores reflect some degree of difficulty in children's lives. Children who engaged in role play, particularly children with imaginary companions, scored higher on the CDC than other children. However, role play was not related to the measures of fears or problem behaviors. The results suggest that a distinction between pathological and nonpathological dissociation is warranted, with role play activities being more closely linked to the latter. Measurement of dissociation in preschoolers is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-171
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Trauma and Dissociation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008


  • Imaginary companions
  • Measurement
  • Nonpathological dissociation
  • Role play

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