Types of dissociation and dissociative types: A taxometric analysis of dissociative experiences

Niels G. Waller, Frank W. Putnam, Eve B. Carlson

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This article examined evidence for dimensional and typological models of dissociation. The authors reviewed previous research with the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES; E. B. Bernstein-Carlson & F. W. Putnam, 1986) and note that this scale, like other dissociation questionnaires, was developed to measure that so-called dissociative continuum. Next, recently developed taxometric methods for distinguishing typological from dimensional constructs are described and applied to DES item-response data from 228 adults with diagnosed multiple personality disorder and 228 normal controls. The taxometric findings empirically justify the distinction between two types of dissociative experiences. Nonpathological dissociative experiences are manifestations of a dissociative trait, whereas pathological dissociative experiences are manifestations of a latent class variable. The taxometric findings also indicate that there are two types of dissociators. Individuals in the pathological dissociative class (taxon) can be identified with a brief, 8-item questionnaire called the DES-T. Scores on the DES-T and DES are compared in 11 clinical and nonclinical samples. It is concluded that the DES-T is a sensitive measure of pathological dissociation, and the implications of these taxometric results for the identification, treatment, and understanding of multiple personality disorder and allied pathological dissociative states are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-321
Number of pages22
JournalPsychological Methods
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1996


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