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Vol. 80, No. 6, 2011
Issue release date: October 2011

The Scientific Status of Childhood Dissociative Identity Disorder: A Review of Published Research

Boysen G.A.
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Abstract

Background: Dissociative identity disorder (DID) remains a controversial diagnosis due to conflicting views on its etiology. Some attribute DID to childhood trauma and others attribute it to iatrogenesis. The purpose of this article is to review the published cases of childhood DID in order to evaluate its scientific status, and to answer research questions related to the etiological models. Methods: I searched MEDLINE and PsycINFO records for studies published since 1980 on DID/multiple personality disorder in children. For each study I coded information regarding the origin of samples and diagnostic methods. Results: The review produced a total of 255 cases of childhood DID reported as individual case studies (44) or aggregated into empirical studies (211). Nearly all cases (93%) emerged from samples of children in treatment, and multiple personalities was the presenting problem in 23% of the case studies. Four US research groups accounted for 65% of all 255 cases. Diagnostic methods typically included clinical evaluation based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder criteria, but hypnosis, structured interviews, and multiple raters were rarely used in diagnoses. Conclusion: Despite continuing research on the related concepts of trauma and dissociation, childhood DID itself appears to be an extremely rare phenomenon that few researchers have studied in depth. Nearly all of the research that does exist on childhood DID is from the 1980s and 1990s and does not resolve the ongoing controversies surrounding the disorder.



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