Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Valerie A. Simon


Disorganization is understood as a lack of cognitive and emotional integration of traumatic experiences (Main & Morgan, 1996). Disorganized states of mind appear to be particularly salient to parenting outcomes and represent an important psychological construct for understanding the consequences of child maltreatment and may be particularly important during the postpartum period (Ballen, et al., 2010; Lyons-Ruth & Jacobvitz, 2008; Kanotra, et al., 2007; Kaufman & Zigler, 1987).

Characteristics of child maltreatment and demographic characteristics have been linked to both disorganization and psychological symptoms of PTSD and depression (Bailey, et al., 2007; Banyard, et al., 2001; Davis, et al., 2008; Riggs & Jacobvitz, 2002; Simon, et al., 2008). A small body of research supports the theory that symptoms of PTSD are linked to and possibly maintain disorganized states of mind (Liotti, 1992; Fearon & Mansell, 2001; Simon et al., 2008; Stovall-McClough & Cloitre, 2006). Experiencing depression has also been linked to disorganization, however this relationship is less well understood (Borelli, et al., 2010; Ivarsson, et al., 2010). The current study assessed the presence and frequency of indicators of disorganization and disorganized classification. This study also investigated associations between maltreatment characteristics, demographic risk, and the persistence of psychological symptoms (PTSD and depression) and disorganized states of mind with respect to maltreatment in a sample of new mothers. Indicators of disorganization were common and demonstrated adequate variability. 43% of the sample was classified as disorganized. Experiencing sexual abuse by a non-caregiver within one developmental period was associated with being classified as disorganized as well as the severity of disorganization scores. Demographic characteristics were not related to disorganization. Results also revealed that the persistence of symptoms of depression, but not PTSD, during the postpartum period predicted disorganized classification. The current study provides important information about the frequency of disorganized states of mind as well as links to maltreatment characteristics and symptoms of depression during the postpartum period.