Childhood Trauma and Maladaptive Daydreaming: Fantasy Functions and Themes In A Multi-Country Sample

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We analyzed responses of 539 adults who met an evidence-based criterion for probable maladaptive daydreaming (MD). Their reported childhood traumata were associated with the utilization of MD to distract from painful memories. A history of childhood physical and emotional neglect as well as emotional abuse was associated with daydreaming aimed to regulate emotional pain. Childhood exposure to physical and emotional abuse was associated with an increased likelihood of daydreaming about an idealized version of their original families. Themes of emotional suffering were associated with exposure to childhood emotional abuse. A range of morbid imageries and trauma-related reenacting behaviors featured in the fantasies of our respondents. Childhood emotional abuse was related to daydreaming about death, physical violence as a victim, being a captor, being rescued, and being a rescuer. Childhood sexual abuse was correlated with themes of sexual violence as a victim, being a captive, and being rescued. Childhood emotional neglect was linked with daydreaming about taking revenge, and a childhood history of physical abuse was associated with current fantasies about being captive. MD fantasy among adults exposed to childhood trauma may not only serve as mere coping mechanisms but potentially manifest a pathological preoccupation with unresolved childhood adversities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-303
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Trauma and Dissociation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Taylor & Francis.


  • Child abuse
  • dissociative absorption
  • fantasy
  • neglect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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