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Childhood Cumulative Trauma and Depressive Symptoms in Adulthood: the Role of Mindfulness and Dissociation

Abstract

Considering the heightened risk of adults who have experienced childhood cumulative trauma (CCT) to suffer from depressive symptoms, the present study aimed to investigate mindfulness and dissociation as possible mechanisms implicated in this relationship. A total of 234 clients seeking psychotherapy for sexual and/or relational difficulties completed self-reported questionnaires as part of the evaluation phase within their treatment. The assessment tools evaluated the experience of childhood trauma, depressive symptoms, mindfulness levels, and dissociative symptoms. Results of structural equation modeling indicated that the link between CCT and depressive symptoms was fully mediated by both mindfulness and dissociation. In light of our results, it is recommended to assess systematically the presence of CCT, depressive symptoms, and dissociation in clients seeking help for sexual and/or relational issues, even though their primary motive may seem unrelated. Findings suggest that treatments focusing on fostering mindfulness might be beneficial in reducing depressive symptoms for individuals who experienced CCT.

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Acknowledgements

The authors want to thank all the clients who participated in this study. Also, this study would not have been possible without the valuable collaboration of the graduate interns in sexology as well as a number of student members of the Trauma and Couple Research and Intervention Unit (TRACE), who collaborated in the data collection. Finally, we want to acknowledge Michel Goulet, sexologist and clinical professor of sexology, UQAM, without whom this collaboration between research and clinical work would have not been possible.

Funding

This study was partially funded by grants from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Santé (FRQS), the Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Société et Culture (FRQSC), the Interdisciplinary Research Centre on Intimate Relationship Problems and Sexual Abuse (CRIPCAS), and UQAM, to the last author.

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Authors

Contributions

RB: acquisition of data, designed and executed the study, assisted with the data analyses, and drafted the manuscript. NB: designed and executed the study, assisted with the data analyses, and collaborated with the writing and editing of the paper. MÈD: performed the structural equation analysis as well as writing data analyses section, provided critical review and final approval of the manuscript. MH: provided critical review and final approval for the manuscript. NG: responsible of the project, acquisition of data, designed and executed the study, wrote the paper, supervision, review, and editing of the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Natacha Godbout.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethic Statement

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The research project was approved by the UQAM Ethic Institutional Board.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals.

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Bolduc, R., Bigras, N., Daspe, MÈ. et al. Childhood Cumulative Trauma and Depressive Symptoms in Adulthood: the Role of Mindfulness and Dissociation. Mindfulness 9, 1594–1603 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0906-3

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Keywords

  • Childhood cumulative trauma
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Mindfulness
  • Dissociation