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Development, reliability, and validity of a dissociation scale

Author(s): Bernstein EM, Putnam FW

Abstract

Dissociation is a lack of the normal integration of thoughts, feelings, and experiences into the stream of consciousness and memory. Dissociation occurs to some degree in normal individuals and is thought to be more prevalent in persons with major mental illnesses. The Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) has been developed to offer a means of reliably measuring dissociation in normal and clinical populations. Scale items were developed using clinical data and interviews, scales involving memory loss, and consultations with experts in dissociation. Pilot testing was performed to refine the wording and format of the scale. The scale is a 28-item self-report questionnaire. Subjects were asked to make slashes on 100-mm lines to indicate where they fall on a continuum for each question. In addition, demographic information (age, sex, occupation, and level of education) was collected so that the connection between these variables and scale scores could be examined. The mean of all item scores ranges from 0 to 100 and is called the DES score. The scale was administered to between 10 and 39 subjects in each of the following populations: normal adults, late adolescent college students, and persons suffering from alcoholism, agoraphobia, phobicanxious disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and multiple personality disorder. Reliability testing of the scale showed that the scale had good test-retest and good split-half reliability. Item-scale score correlations were all significant, indicating good internal consistency and construct validity. A Kruskal-Wallis test and post hoc comparisons of the scores of the eight populations provided evidence of the scale's criterion-referenced validity. The scale was able to distinguish between subjects with a dissociative disorder (multiple personality) and all other subjects.

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