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01.12.2016 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Psychiatry 1/2016

Effect of trauma onset on personality traits of politically persecuted victims

BMC Psychiatry > Ausgabe 1/2016
Krzysztof Rutkowski, Edyta Dembińska, Jolanta Walczewska
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

KR formulated, designed and coordinated the study, was involved in data collection, performed statistical analysis, was involved in interpretation of the data, drafted the manuscript and revised it critically. ED was involved in interpretation of the data, drafting the manuscript and revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content. JW was involved in interpretation of the data and revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Authors’ information

Krzysztof Rutkowski, MD, PhD, is a specialist in psychiatry and a Jungian analyst. He is presently a professor of Jagiellonian University Medical College and head of the Department of Psychotherapy. For many years he has been involved in research on victims of political persecution and PTSD in Poland.
Edyta Dembińska, MD, PhD, is a specialist in psychiatry. She is presently an assistant professor in the Department of Psychotherapy at Jagiellonian University Medical College in Krakow. Her research and teaching fields are neurotic and personality disorders and history of psychoanalytic movement in Poland.
Jolanta Walczewska, MD, PhD, is specialist in internal medicine. She works as a clinician at the Department of Internal Medicine and Gerontology of Jagiellonian University Medical College in Krakow, Poland. Her research interests focus on associations between psychological trauma and somatic disorders.



The hypothesis that traumatic experiences in early childhood impact personality formation and psychopathology is well known in psychology and psychiatry, but this is difficult to verify statistically in methodological terms. The aim of this study, conducted with politically persecuted Poles, was to establish the influence of the time when trauma is experienced on the development of psychopathological symptoms.


The subjects were divided into two groups: those who had experienced trauma before age five (group 1) and those who experienced trauma at an older age (group 2). Subjects in both groups suffered from chronic untreated post-traumatic stress disorder. In order to test the research hypothesis, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 profiles of both groups were compared using Student’s t-test, and the Mann–Whitney U-test.


Statistically significant between-group differences were found for the F validity scale and the following clinical scales: Hypochondriasis, Depression, Psychopathic deviate, Psychasthenia, Schizophrenia, and Social introversion. All the significantly different scores were higher in the group traumatized in early childhood. People exposed to trauma under age five had profiles similar to those traumatized after age five, but they experienced their symptoms more intensely.


Of clinical significance, higher scores on the psychasthenia, schizophrenia, and social introversion scales, especially on the psychopathic deviate scale, indicated pathology only in the early childhood trauma group. Taken together, these symptoms lead to withdrawal and hindrance of social functioning. This outcome confirms the hypothesis of the influence of various early childhood factors (such as trauma) on personality formation and personality traits in adulthood.
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