Psychological Maltreatment Most Harmful Form Of Abuse, Evidence From Major Study Suggests

A major study (Spinazzola et al.) on the effects of child maltreatment provides strong evidence that the psychological maltreatment of children is the most harmful form of abuse.

The study analyzed a sample of 5616 young people who had histories of childhood trauma in the form of :

– psychological maltreatment (i.e. emotional abuse / emotional neglect)

– sexual abuse

– physical abuse

Each young person who participated in the study was then assessed on whether or not he/she had experienced particular behavioural problems, symptoms and disorders (12 in all), a list of which I present below :

– substance abuse

– alcohol abuse

– other forms of self-harm

– skipping school or daycare

– behaviour problems in the home

criminal activity

attachment problems

– academic problems

– running away

suicidality

– behaviour problems at school

– sexualized behaviours

 

RESULTS OF THE STUDY :

The researchers found that those young people who had a history of psychological maltreatment were more damaged by their adverse experiences (as measured by to what extent they were affected by the above listed behavioural problems, symptoms and disorders) than were those who had suffered physical or sexual abuse.

More specifically, of the above 12 listed behavioural problems, symptoms and disorders, those who had suffered psychological maltreatment were equally likely, or more likely, than those who had suffered physical abuse to have been affected by :

– substance abuse

– alcohol abuse

– other forms of self-harm

– skipping school or daycare

– behaviour problems in the home

criminal activity

attachment problems

– academic problems

– running away

suicidality

– behaviour problems at school

Furthermore, of the above 12 listed behavioural problems, symptoms and disorders, those who had suffered psychological maltreatment were equally likely, or more likely, than those who had suffered sexual abuse to have been affected by :

 – substance abuse

– alcohol abuse

– other forms of self-harm

– skipping school or daycare

– behaviour problems in the home

– criminal activity

attachment problems

– academic problems

– running away

– suicidality

– behaviour problems at school

 

IMPLICATIONS OF THE STUDY :

In response to the above findings, the authors of the study emphasized the need for it to become a matter of public policy to develop and implement childhood trauma interventions in ways that recognize just what a devastating effect psychological maltreatment in one’s childhood can have upon a person’s quality of life.

They also draw attention to the need for the child welfare system to improve their ability to detect cases of child psychological maltreatment (which frequently occurs ‘under the radar’) so that effective interventions may be implemented.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

About David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

David Hosier MSc holds two degrees (BSc Hons and MSc) and a post-graduate diploma in education (all three qualifications are in psychology). He also holds UK QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). He has worked as a teacher, lecturer and researcher. His own experiences of severe childhood trauma and its emotional fallout motivated him to set up this website, childhoodtraumarecovery.com, for which he exclusively writes articles. He has published several books including The Link Between Childhood Trauma And Borderline Personality Disorder, The Link Between Childhood Trauma ANd Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and  How Childhood Trauma Can Damage The Developing Brain (And How These Effects Can Be Reversed). He was educated at the University of London, Goldsmith’s College where he developed his interest in childhood experiences leading to psychopathology and wrote his thesis on the effects of childhood depression on academic performance. This site has been created for educational purposes only.

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