A Laboratory-Based Study of the Relationship Between Childhood Abuse and Experiential Avoidance Among Inner-City Substance Users: The Role of Emotional Nonacceptance

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Adaptation, Psychological, Adult, Alcoholism, Avoidance Learning, Awareness, Child, Child Abuse, Child Abuse, Sexual, Comorbidity, Denial (Psychology), Depressive Disorder, Major, Emotions, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Motivation, Personality Inventory, Poverty Areas, Risk Factors, Self-Assessment, Somatoform Disorders, Substance-Related Disorders, Urban Population

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Despite the theorized centrality of experiential avoidance in abuse-related psychopathology, empirical examinations of the relationship between childhood abuse and experiential avoidance remain limited. The present study adds to the extant literature on this relationship, providing a laboratory-based investigation of the relationships between childhood sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, experiential avoidance (indexed as unwillingness to persist on 2 psychologically distressing laboratory tasks), and self-reported emotional nonacceptance among a sample of 76 inner-city treatment-seeking substance users. As hypothesized, results provide evidence for heightened experiential avoidance and emotional nonacceptance among individuals with moderate-severe sexual, physical, and emotional abuse (compared to individuals reporting none-low abuse). However, although emotional nonacceptance was associated with increased risk for experiential avoidance, it mediated the relationship between childhood abuse and experiential avoidance only for emotional abuse. As such, results suggest that one mechanism through which emotional abuse in particular leads to experiential avoidance is emotional nonacceptance. Findings suggest the utility of interventions aimed at decreasing experiential avoidance and promoting emotional acceptance among abused individuals.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Behavior Therapy, v. 38, issue 3, p. 256-268