This is the first prospective study of male and female child abuse survivors to investigate the rates of unresolved/disorganized states of mind with respect to abuse (U/d abuse) classifications and factors that increase or decrease the risk of being classified as U/d abuse during late adolescence and/or adulthood. Participants were drawn from an ongoing longitudinal study of families from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The present sample (n = 42; 19 males, 23 females) includes only individuals who were identified prospectively as having experienced childhood physical and/or sexual abuse by a caregiver and for whom scores from the Adult Attachment Interview for U/d abuse were available at age 19 and/or 26 years. The following constructs were included in analyses: infant attachment representations; maltreatment circumstances; dissociative symptoms across childhood and adolescence; relationships with parents, friends, and romantic partners over time.
Based on findings from previous longitudinal studies and attachment theory, it was hypothesized that disorganized/disoriented (D/d) attachment classifications in infancy would relate significantly to U/d abuse classifications, but that the circumstances of abuse (type, chronicity, or age of onset) would not relate significantly to U/d abuse status. Dissociative symptoms over time were anticipated to predict U/d abuse classifications. Positive and supportive relationships with others over time were expected to predict lower rates of U/d abuse classifications. Finally, following a cumulative risk perspective, it was expected that the added influence of severe trauma, a history of D/d infant attachment, high degrees of dissociation, poor relationships over time, and insecure states of mind would significantly predict U/d abuse status.
Results revealed that approximately 36 percent of participants received U/d abuse classifications at age 19 and 41 percent at age 26, with little stability between the two assessments. Cumulative risk was significantly predictive of U/d abuse classifications. D/d infant attachment was a strong predictor of U/d abuse at age 19 but not at age 26 years. The circumstances of abuse, dissociative symptoms, secure infant attachment status, or the quality of important relationships by themselves were not significantly related to U/d abuse status at either age. Findings and needed future areas of research are discussed.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2010. Major: Child Psychology. Advisors: L. Alan Sroufe and Sandra L. Christenson. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 114 pages, appendices.
Whaley, Gloria J. L..
Factors related to the development, maintenance, and/or resolution of unresolved/disorganized states of mind regarding abuse in a sample of maltreated individuals..
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