Parsing the Contributions of Attachment and Trauma in Pathways to Dissociation, Suicidality, and Borderline Personality Disorder

Disorganized attachment processes have been theorized to contribute to a range of trauma-related psychopathologies in adulthood. Dr. Lyons-Ruth will focus on the current state of knowledge regarding parent-child interaction patterns associated with trajectories toward dissociation, borderline psychopathology, and suicidality, and present new interactional and neurobiological findings from recent longitudinal work. She will discuss recent findings regarding controlling, role-confused, and disoriented forms of parent-child communication and how these varied facets of disorganized relationships may contribute differentially to different forms of trauma-related psychopathology. She will also focus on findings distinguishing the effects of trauma and attachment in these trajectories, and advance a model of how traumatic events and attachment processes may interrelate in development.

This session was originally presented as a live conference session in May 2020.

Target Audience


Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this session participants will be able to:

  • Describe the features of parent-child interaction most predictive of dissociation, borderline features, and suicidality in young adulthood
  • Discuss differences in limbic development associated with early attachment disturbance rather than later childhood maltreatment
  • Explain how early attachment experiences and later maltreatment may contribute in distinct ways to trauma-related psychopathology and neurobiological development
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
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Presenter:  Karlen Lyons-Ruth, PhD
Presenter Bio: Karlen Lyons-Ruth, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Director of the Biobehavioral Family Studies Lab, and a supervising psychologist at the Cambridge Hospital. Her work has focused on understanding the adaptations in attachment relationships that occur in high-risk environments over the infancy, childhood, and adolescent periods and has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and private foundations. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, a former Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University, and has served on the Board of Directors of the World Association of Infant Mental Health, as well as the Editorial Boards of Child Development, Developmental Psychology, and the Infant Mental Health Journal. She maintains a private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Available Credit

  • 1.50 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.


ISSTD Member cost:
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"Your Price" above reflects your final price based on your membership status and career level. 

  • ISSTD defines a student as those enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree or certification in the mental health field and who have an interest in trauma and dissociation. 
  • ISSTD defines an emerging professional as mental health professionals who have completed an advanced degree and are in the first three years of their career (or first three years after graduation for researchers).
  • If you do not fall into one of the above categories please register as Professional/Retired. 

These prices are for Tier I countries. For a list of countries by Tier click here. If you are located in a country that falls into Tier II-VI please contact ISSTD at to receive the appropriate discount code.