Negative body experience in women with early childhood trauma: Associations with trauma severity and dissociation

Wilhelmina Scheffers, Maike Hoek, Ruud J. Bosscher, Marijtje A. J. van Duijn, Robert A. Schoevers, Jooske T. van Busschbach

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Background:A crucial but often overlooked impact of early life exposure to trauma is its farreaching effect on a person's relationship with their body. Several domains of body experience may be negatively influenced or damaged as a result of early childhood trauma.

Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate disturbances in three domains of body experience: body attitude, body satisfaction, and body awareness. Furthermore, associations between domains of body experience and severity of trauma symptoms as well as frequency of dissociation were evaluated.

Method: Body attitude was measured with the Dresden Body Image Questionnaire, body satisfaction with the Body Cathexis Scale, and body awareness with the Somatic Awareness Questionnaire in 50 female patients with complex trauma and compared with scores in a non-clinical female sample (n = 216). Patients in the clinical sample also filled out the Davidson Trauma Scale and the Dissociation Experience Scale.

Results: In all measured domains, body experience was severely affected in patients with early childhood trauma. Compared with scores in the non-clinical group, effect sizes in Cohen's d were 2.7 for body attitude, 1.7 for body satisfaction, and 0.8 for body awareness. Associations between domains of body experience and severity of trauma symptoms were low, as were the associations with frequency of dissociative symptoms.

Conclusions: Early childhood trauma in women is associated with impairments in selfreported body experience that warrant careful assessment in the treatment of women with psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1322892
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31-May-2017


  • Early childhood trauma
  • body experience
  • body attitude
  • body satisfaction
  • body awareness
  • dissociation

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