Due to a series of self-perpetuating and mutually interacting influences, adults with a history of prolonged childhood abuse (PCA) often enter therapy having had extraordinarily little experience with productive, collaborative interpersonal relating. A good deal has been written about how abuse trauma warps and attenuates capacities for effective interpersonal interaction (see, e.g. , Courtois, 1988; Herman, 1992a; Freyd, 1996). Both the anguish and sense of betrayal that abuse engenders promote abiding feelings of mistrust of others and disdain of oneself that can forcefully block the formation of mutually gratifying, reciprocal, stable relationships.

o The Anticipation of Distain However, if we think of PCA as most commonly occurring within a particular type of ineffective family context, a more intricate picture emerges. Family backgrounds which foster the conditions that contribute to ongoing intra-or extra-familial abuse are highly unlikely to promote strong and consistent capacities for attachment or to model effective social skills. The limited capabilities of individuals reared in these types of family environments to engage in effective interpersonal relating, therefore, are largely traceable to factors that predate and are much more pervasive than the occurrence of overt incidents of abuse.