Dissociation and insecure attachment as mediators of the relation between childhood emotional abuse and nonclinical paranoid traits

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Yoki Linn Mertens, Anna Racioppi, Tamara Sheinbaum, Thomas Kwapil & Neus Barrantes-Vidal



Background: Research suggests dissociation and insecure attachment serve as explanatory mechanisms in the pathway from childhood trauma to paranoia. However, past work has not examined these mechanisms concurrently in nonclinical populations.

Objective: The current study sought to examine dissociation and insecure attachment as parallel mediators of the association between childhood emotional abuse and paranoid traits. Furthermore, a serial mediation model with insecure attachment preceding dissociation in the explanatory pathway was explored.

Methods: Eighty-nine nonclinically ascertained young adults were assessed for childhood emotional abuse, dissociation, attachment styles, and paranoid traits. Parallel and serial mediation models were tested.

Results: The association of childhood emotional abuse with both interview-based and self-reported paranoid traits was significantly mediated by dissociation and preoccupied attachment. Fearful attachment was a significant mediator in the model for self-reported paranoid traits. No evidence for a serial mediation effect was found.

Conclusions: The present findings extend support for dissociation and attachment insecurity as mechanisms underlying the link between childhood emotional maltreatment and paranoid traits. Longitudinal research is needed to inform whether insecure attachment contributes to dissociation along the pathways to paranoid traits.

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