Consistency of reporting sexual and physical abuse during psychological treatment of personality disorder: an explorative study

P. Spinhoven*, L. Bamelis, R. Haringsma, M. Molendijk, A. Arntz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of decreasing, consistent and increasing reports of sexual and physical abuse after 12 months of long-term psychological treatment of personality disorders, to investigate demographic and clinical characteristics predictive of inconsistency of reporting abuse, and to explore whether autobiographical memory may account for this inconsistency. In 229 clinical participants with an SCID II diagnosed personality disorder, 180 (78.6%) reported the same instances of invasive sexual and/or physical abuse on a trauma questionnaire (SPAQ) at baseline and follow-up, 25 (10.9%) decreased and 24 (10.4%) increased their abuse reports. Consistency of reporting abuse did not differ between schema-focused therapy, clarification-oriented psychotherapy and treatment-as-usual. Current depressive episode (SCID-I) and decreased capacity to produce specific negative memories on the Autobiographical Memory Test were characteristic of decreasing abuse reporters, while increasing abuse reporters showed higher levels of Cluster A personality pathology (in particular schizotypal traits) on the Assessment of DSM-IV Personality Disorders (ADP-IV). These results suggest that even in treatment procedures directed at exploring someone's personal past with abuse-related imagery consistency of reporting abuse is quite stable. However, certain clinical characteristics may make some persons more likely to change their trauma reports. Moreover, reduced negative memory specificity may represent an avoidant strategy associated with no longer reporting instances of abuse. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S43-S50
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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