Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Second Advisor

Frederick A. Kosinski, Jr.

Third Advisor

Louise Forsleff


Problem. Childhood incest appears to play a role in the formation of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder). This study investigated whether a relationship exists between dissociation and object-relations impairment in incest survivors and whether DID incest survivors have higher levels of these characteristics than non-DID incest survivors.

Method. The Dissociative Experience Scale, Bell Object Relations Reality Testing Inventory and Childhood Maltreatment Interview Schedule-Short Form were completed by a sample of 60 adult female incest survivor clients. 29 who met the diagnosis for DID and 31 who did not.

The Results. All three hypotheses were supported at a .05 level. A significant relationship between dissociation and object-relations impairment was found. The DID group reported significantly higher levels of dissociation and object-relations impairment than the non-DID group and higher incidences of childhood maltreatment and adult traumas. A discriminant analysis found that DID clients can be differentiated from non-DID clients based on dissociative experiences and object-relations scores. The DID group consistently reported higher incidences of childhood maltreatment, psychological abuse, and adult traumatization than the non-DID group.

Conclusions. The findings support an object-relations model for incest and suggest that personality splitting found in DID clients may be related to a developmental arrest in early-life intrapsychic splitting mechanisms described by Kemberg (1966. 1975, 1976) and others. It is possible that therapists may serve as "transitional objects” for incest survivors with object-relations deficits. Past research has viewed incest as leading to a variety of PTSD symptoms, however some effects, especially personality splitting, may originate even before the incest occurs when very young children are exposed to harsh or psychologically overwhelming situations.

Subject Area

Incest--Psychological aspects, Adult child abuse victims.

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