Dissociative experiences, locus-of-control, and sexual abuse in psychiatric in-patients

Lee Brewer Maynard (1993)

The ramifications of sexual abuse are frequently extensive, impacting upon an individual's sense of self and their capacities to function and relate. Victims of such abuse frequently are not able to integrate such a traumatic experience successfully, as evidenced by a variety of subsequent psychological, behavioral and physiological manifestations. The need to distance oneself from a traumatic experience has been found in many cases to take the form of dissociation, a psychic defense whose function is to preserve ego function. It is also proposed here that being victimized can leave the individual with a sense that one cannot adequately impact upon their own fate, resulting in a perception of external locus of control. This dissertation more closely examines both of these constructs: dissociation and locus of control, and their relationship to sexual abuse. Seventy-one psychiatric inpatients were studied, using the Dissociative Experience Scale (DES) (Bernstein & Putnam, 1986) and the Locus of Control of Behavior (LCB) scale (Craig, Franklin & Andrews, 1984) to test the hypothesis that there is a significant correlation between sexual abuse, dissociative phenomena, and an externally-based perceived locus of control. It was found that the impact of sexual abuse is far reaching, especially for those who are victimized at a young age, who are victimized by family members and who suffer physical abuse as well as sexual abuse. These findings are discussed in terms of dissociative scale scores, locus of control scores, as well as such factors as substance abuse histories, family size, relationships with perpetrators, and disclosure patterns. These findings suggested that the process of recovery from sexual abuse is related to the age at which abuse first occurs, revictimization rates, and most importantly whether the perpetrator is a family member.