IPT Book Reviews

Title: Dissociation in Children and Adolescents: A Developmental Perspective
Author: Frank W. Putnam
Publisher: Guilford Publications, 1997

Guilford Publications
72 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
(800) 365-7006
$38.95 (c)

This 423-page book offers a thoughtful, sober, careful, detailed, and thorough review of the theories, research data, clinical experience, and suggested treatments of dissociative disorders in children and adolescents. It provides succinct and clear treatment of a fairly complete set of the questions, concerns, issues, and problems connected with dissociation phenomena. There is an attempt at presenting a balanced view and there is brief mention of most of the alternative concepts, explanations, and contrary research.

However, the beliefs and preconceptions of the author affect the completeness of the coverage. Putnam is clear in stating that he believes in the validity and taxonometric reality of dissociation. He believes there are multiple personalities. He believes child maltreatment and childhood trauma is responsible for almost all of the pathology observed in children and the psychiatric problems that show up in adults. From this prior position, there is a selective attention given to disconfirming information. The alternatives to these beliefs are mentioned but in an attenuated and limited fashion. This approach conforms to suggestions about taking advantage of the inoculation effect discovered in the large body of social psychology's communication research.

This means that for those who may not be fully aware of the extent and richness of the arguments and evidence that raise questions about these beliefs, the book may well be quite persuasive. For those with a more sophisticated and extensive understanding of the relevant data, the book is a well-written summary of the best arguments that can be made for dissociation, multiple personality disorder, and the special systems of memory and neurological architecture that come into play when an individual is traumatized. Reading this book allows for a quite complete study of the relevant concepts and considerations around dissociation. The contrary evidence is mentioned enough so that it would be possible to pursue a more thorough understanding of the full picture by following up on the references given. It is a book that can be read with profit by anyone concerned about adolescents, children, maltreatment, trauma, and what to think and do about it.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

Order this book: Hardcover

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