Does dissociation mediate the relationship between childhood trauma and hallucinations, delusions in first episode psychosis?

Pamela Sun, Mario Alvarez-Jimenez, Katrina Simpson, Katherine Lawrence, Natalie Peach, Sarah Bendall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Childhood trauma has been linked to the presence of delusions and hallucinations in psychosis, although the mechanisms underlying this relationship require elucidation. Dissociation, characterized by disruptions to the integrative functioning of several core mental domains, has emerged as a potential mechanism. There is a paucity of research using a clinician-rated measure of dissociation to test the indirect effect of dissociation on the relationship between childhood trauma and psychotic symptoms. This study aimed to investigate whether dissociation mediated both the relationships between childhood trauma and hallucinations, and childhood trauma and delusions utilizing a clinician-administered measure of dissociation, namely the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders - Revised (SCID-D-R). Method: Sixty-six first-episode psychosis (FEP) participants completed a research interview and questionnaires. Information about experiences of childhood trauma, psychosis, dissociation, general psychopathology and demographics were collected. Results: When using the SCID-D-R, childhood trauma positively correlated with dissociation. Further, dissociation mediated the relationship between childhood trauma and delusions. Contrary to previous findings, we found no relationship between dissociation and hallucinations and no mediating effect of dissociation on the association between childhood trauma and hallucinations. The results of the SCID-D-R differed significantly from those of the Dissociative Experiences Scale-II (DES-II) which were consistent with previous research. Conclusions: Our findings are the first to use a clinician-rated measure to test the mediating effect of dissociation on the relationship between childhood trauma and positive symptoms (i.e., hallucinations and delusions). Given the discrepancies in results between the SCID-D-R and DES-II, how dissociation is measured in future research is an important consideration. The results add to a body of work that increasingly recognizes the importance of dissociative symptoms on the relationship between childhood trauma and psychosis. The results suggest that dissociative symptoms should be part of routine assessment in those with a history of trauma and present to FEP services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-74
Number of pages7
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Cite this