The Relationship between Childhood Trauma and Epistemic Trust: A cross-sectional Study
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Abstract Epistemic trust - the individual’s willingness to consider new knowledge from another person as trustworthy, generalizable, and relevant to the self - is considered predictive for treatment outcomes. Since epistemic trust is considered to have its roots in early development, traumatic experiences during childhood may be assumed to disrupt an individual’s epistemic trust. Understanding the structure of epistemic trust and how childhood trauma is related to it therefore might have useful clinical implications. The current study included 117 participants with a majority of highly educated people and women with an average age of 45 years old. The vast majority of the participants indicated that they had experienced no or a low degree of childhood trauma. The Questionnaire Epistemic Trust (QET), a newly developed questionnaire, was used to assess the degree of epistemic trust. The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire - Short Form was used to determine the degree and form of childhood trauma. Four factors were derived from the factor analysis: epistemic mistrust in the practitioner, suspiciousness, willingness to accept help and openness for information. Together, the dimensions explained 45.2 percent of the variance. Internal consistencies were .91, .87, .82 and .93, respectively. Results showed that individuals who experienced childhood trauma did not differ significantly on the four aspects of epistemic trust, compared to individuals without a history of childhood trauma. Ancillary analysis revealed that epistemic mistrust in the practitioner was increased in people with a history of physical abuse, sexual abuse and physical neglect, whereas suspiciousness was increased in people with a history of physical abuse, sexual abuse but not physical neglect. Willingness to accept help and openness for information were not affected by any form of childhood trauma. The results are promising and show the feasibility of further development and validation of the QET; also in clinical populations. Understanding the relationship between childhood trauma and epistemic trust can be used to better tailor the treatment to the specific characteristics of the patient.