Title

The impacts of emotional neglect and a felt sense of positive emotional connection on self-injury and dissociation

Date of Completion

January 2001

Keywords

Psychology, Clinical

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

The relationships among emotional neglect, a felt sense of positive emotional connection, self-injury (tissue-damaging behaviors) and dissociation were explored in a clinical sample consisting of 90 adult outpatient psychotherapy clients. Participants responded to questions concerning 5 types of childhood maltreatment (emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and emotional and physical neglect); a felt sense of positive emotional connection with people, and with beings and entities in childhood; the number of types and frequency of self-injurious behaviors; and the level of dissociative symptornatology. Correlations among all variables were significant and in the expected directions except for positive emotional connection with beings and entities which was only significantly correlated with emotional neglect and positive emotional connection with people. The results showed, as hypothesized, that more emotional neglect was related to a greater likelihood that a person would self-injure, more types of self-injurious behaviors and a higher frequency of engaging in those behaviors. More emotional neglect was also related to higher levels of dissociation. The results also showed that higher levels of positive emotional connection with people were related to a greater likelihood that a person would not engage in self-injury, a lower total number of self-injurious behaviors, less frequency of engaging in those behaviors, as well as less dissociative symptomatology. Implications for treatment are discussed. ^ Post hoc analyses with stepwise regression indicated that when all variables were used to predict self-injury, only dissociation and positive emotional connection with people added uniquely to the variance. Interestingly, we did not find a unique contribution from any type of childhood maltreatment. However, in predicting dissociation, physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect and emotional neglect, added uniquely to the variance. These results and the implications for future research are discussed. ^ Limitations of this study include the retrospective nature of the data collected, the unknown psychometric properties of some of the instruments used, and a sample with high levels of childhood maltreatment. ^ It is clear that the relationships among childhood maltreatment, a felt sense of positive emotional connection, self-injury, and dissociation are complex. Hopefully future research will help us to understand more about the nature of those relationships. ^