Childhood maltreatment, maladaptive personality types and level and course of psychological distress: A six-year longitudinal study.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 191, p.100-108 (2016)




personality traits; psychological distress; anxiety; depression; longitudinal; childhood trauma


Background: Childhood maltreatment and maladaptive personality are both cross-sectionally associated with psychological distress. It is unknown whether childhood maltreatment affects the level and longitudinal course of psychological distress in adults and to what extent this effect is mediated by maladaptive personality. Methods: A sample of 2947 adults aged 18-65, consisting of healthy controls, persons with a prior history or current episode of depressive and/or anxiety disorders according to the Composite Interview Diagnostic Instrument were assessed in six waves at baseline (TO) and 1 (T1), 2 (T2), 4 (T4) and 6 years (T6) later. At each wave psychological distress was measured with the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology, Beck Anxiety Inventory, and Fear Questionnaire. At TO childhood maltreatment types were measured with a semi-structured interview (Childhood Trauma Interview) and personality traits with the NEO-Five Factor Inventory. Results: Using latent variable analyses, we found that severity of childhood maltreatment (emotional neglect and abuse in particular) predicted higher initial levels of psychological distress and that this effect was mediated by maladaptive personality types. Differences in trajectories of distress between persons with varying levels of childhood maltreatment remained significant and stable over time. Limitations: Childhood maltreatment was assessed retrospectively and maladaptive personality types and level of psychological distress at study entry were assessed concurrently. Conclusions: Routine assessment of maladaptive personality types and possible childhood emotional maltreatment in persons with severe and prolonged psychological distress seems warranted to identify persons who may need a different or more intensive treatment.