The trauma of not-knowing: Making sense of personality dissociation after experiencing trauma

    Project: Research

    Project Details


    Traumatic events, such as sexual abuse in childhood, are a risk factor for subsequent lifetime mental and physical health problems. Theoretical accounts propose that these problems are mediated by a variety of coping responses including: (i) dissociative amnesia, whereby memories of traumatic events becomes incapable of recall, and; (ii) dissociative identity disorder (DID), where extreme and repeated abuse leads to the development of particular divisions within the personality which partition off trauma-related experiences. However, while understanding responses to trauma is obviously critical, the research field is deeply divided over even the possibility of dissociative amnesia and DID. A major impediment to resolving this dispute is due to endemic conceptual and theoretical confusion within current trauma and dissociation research, leading to recent calls for conceptual and theoretical analysis to correct this state of affairs. The aim of this project is to resolve this confusion by evaluating the validity of accounts of trauma and dissociation using analytic tools that I have developed in my conceptual and theoretical research. Two major research questions are addressed: what is meant by the terms ‘psychological trauma’ and ‘dissociation’?; and can theoretical accounts of dissociative amnesia and dissociative identity disorder be coherently formulated within theories of personality? This project is significant since it directly enhances our understanding of responses to trauma and addresses a major issue impacting upon both research and treatment of the psychological effects of trauma. The project’s findings will promote theoretical clarification for both practitioners and researchers and also help optimise future research directions through identifying practical implications for testing these theories.
    Effective start/end date1/12/181/06/19