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The ability to talk about the internal states (ISs) and feelings of self and other is an age-appropriate development of late toddlerhood hypothesized to reflect toddlers' emergent self–other understanding and to be fundamental to the regulation of social interaction. This study examined the effects of child maltreatment on the emergence of low-socioeconomic status 30-month-old toddlers' IS lexicons. Children's lexicons were derived both from maternal interviews and from observations of children's spontaneous IS utterances in four laboratory contexts. Results from both data sources indicated that maltreated toddlers produced significantly fewer IS words, fewer IS word types, and proportionately fewer IS words denoting physiological states and negative affect than nonmaltreated toddlers. In addition, maltreated toddlers were more context bound in IS language use and more restricted in their attributions of internal states to self and other. Gender differences were also observed. Individual differences in children's IS language production were significantly related to general linguistic maturity in both groups but to toddlers' conversational skills only in the comparison group. In addition, a cumulative risk model describing the effects of the child's attachment relationship with the caregiver on early IS language was tested. Toddlers most severely at risk (maltreated/insecure) had the most compromised IS language. Thus, secure attachment may serve as a protective mechanism against self-dysfunction in maltreated toddlers.
This study reports observationally based assessments of the responses of physically abused and nonabused boys to interadult anger involving their mothers. Physically abused boys were more behaviorally reactive to interadult anger than comparison subjects, evidencing more problem-focused coping behaviors and greater aggressiveness. Thus, rather than habituating to others' hostility due to their history of exposure to familial violence, abused children appeared more aroused and angered by it and more motivated to intervene. As the matched low-socioeconomic status nonmaltreated sample was also exposed to interparent physical aggression, the results suggest that greater anger and aggression across multiple family subsystems (parent-child, interparental) may have cumulative effects. The study thus advances knowledge toward a more specific process-based understanding of relations between history of family conflict and child outcomes.
The effect of early physical maltreatment on the development of peer relationships was examined in a representative sample of 585 boys and girls. Subjects were assessed for physical maltreatment in the first 5 years of life and then followed for 5 consecutive years. The assessment was based on a clinical interview with parents. Twelve percent of the sample was identified as having experienced physical maltreatment. Peers, teachers, and mothers independently evaluated the maltreated group of children as being more disliked, less popular, and more socially withdrawn than the nonmaltreated group in every year of evaluation, with the magnitude of difference growing over time. These effects held even when family socioeconomic status was controlled. The findings were interpreted as being consistent with the hypothesis that early maltreatment disrupts attachment relationships with adult caregivers, and these disruptions then impair a child's ability to form effective peer relationships.
Behavioral and emotional self-regulation are important aspects of competence in school-age children. Despite the apparent interrelatedness of behavioral and affective processes, empirical approaches to the development of self-regulation typically have investigated these systems separately. As a result, their relative effects upon social competence remain, for the most part, an open question. This study, working from an organizational and developmental psychopathology perspective, attempted to investigate developmental processes that place maltreated children at risk for impaired peer relationships by assessing the independent and relative influences of behavioral and emotional regulation on social competence in school-age children. Subjects were maltreated children, who are at risk for both attenuated self-regulation and impaired peer relationships, and economically disadvantaged nonmaltreated comparison children. Observations were conducted during a summer day camp, an ecologically valid context in which to study children's social interactions. As predicted, maltreated children were found to be deficient in behavioral and affective regulation, relative to nonmaltreated children.
Furthermore, attenuated self-regulation mediated the effects of maltreatment on children's social competence. Results highlighted the unique contributions of both behavior and affect in predicting peer competence, suggesting that a more comprehensive approach to the study of self-regulation is warranted.
Past research highlights the importance of considering the sequelae of physical abuse in the context of other risk factors and possible exacerbating circumstances. The present research examines the relative, unique, and interactive effects of physical abuse, sociocultural disadvantage, and cumulative negative life events. Multiple measures and data sources were used to assess the socioeconomic circumstances, exposure to recent negative events, and social, cognitive, and affective adjustment of 19 physically abused and 49 nonabused elementary school-age children. Results indicated that abuse strongly independently predicted problems in children's adjustment with peers, self-perceptions, and depression. Abuse was also related to increased behavioral problems at home and at school, though this relation abated and even reversed itself as social disadvantage increased. Cumulative negative events independently predicted negative self-perceptions and, for girls, increased depression. Socioeconomic hardship was independently related to children's cognitive maturity. In addition, socioeconomic disadvantage qualified the relation between negative events and children's adjustment to peers, such that increased negative events were related to lower peer adjustment among less disadvantaged children but increased peer adjustment of children with more disadvantage. These results support calls for a more contextualized approach to examining the developmental outcomes of physical abuse, one that considers multiple risk factors simultaneously.
Children who participate in the Mother-Child Project, a longitudinal study of high-risk children, were giver projective storytelling task during their sixth-grade year. Story sets were coded for relationship themes like peer acceptance and problem solving, and responses were compared between groups identified based on pas maltreatment. The maltreatment group included 43 children who were identified as having been physically abused, sexually abused, or neglected or having psychologically unavailable care. A control group of 53 children from this high-risk sample was identified as having received adequate care. The remaining participants whose care was questionable were not included in this study. Based on quantitative analyses using a factor measuring relationship expectations and controlling for IQ and socioeconoraic status, the maltreate group told stories significantly more negative compared to the control group. Findings are introduced and discussed in terms of attachment theory and related work addressing the mental representations of maltreated children. In particular, it is proposed that, based on early maltreatment experiences, children acquire internal working models of themselves as unworthy and of others as unavailable. In subsequent relationship situations they would be constricted in cognitively processing events, have difficulty regulating their own emotions, an employ processes of defensive exclusion (e.g. projection, introjection, displacement, splitting, preoccupatioi idealization) to manage their distress feelings.
This investigation examined the impact of dimensions within maltreatment such as the severity, frequency, chronicity, and subtypes of maltreatment and their relationship with child outcome. Children between the ages of 5 and 11 who participated in a summer camp program were assessed on their social competence, behavior problems, and peers ratings of cooperation, disruption, and initiation of aggression. The 235 participants were all from low-socioeconomic status families; 145 children were from families with documented histories of child maltreatment, whereas 90 of the children had no record of maltreatment. The study found that severity of the maltreatment, the frequency of Child Protective Services reports, and the interaction between severity and frequency were significant predictors of children's functioning. Additionally, the chronicity of the maltreatment in the family significantly predicted peer ratings of aggression. Subtype differences emerged as well, with children in the sexual abuse group being more socially competent than other maltreated children, and children in the physical abuse group having more behavior problems than nonmaltreated children. Regression analyses with cooccurrence of multiple subtypes of maltreatment indicated that physical neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse made significant unique contributions in predicting child outcomes. The advantages of exploring multiple dimensions within maltreatment, the necessity of developing better operational definitions of these dimensions, and social policy implications of the findings are discussed.
Although maltreatment is known to have detrimental effects on socioemotional development, the relation of those effects to type of maltreatment and child age is not clear. Most studies either focus solely on physical abuse or do not differentiate among types of maltreatment. Furthermore, most concentrate on young children. Studies of psychological maltreatment in young children indicate that physical abuse and psychological maltreatment tend to co-occur, severity of injury is not related to severity of psychological maltreatment or to developmental problems, and severity of psychological maltreatment is related to developmental outcomes. The present study investigated (a) relations among types of physical and psychological maltreatment and (b) their effect on development in an ethnically diverse sample of maltreated school-age children and adolescents. The results indicated that, as in young children, physical and psychological maltreatment co-occurred in most cases. As with young children, severity of emotional abuse was related to severity of physical neglect in school-age children; among adolescents, however, it was related to severity of physical injury. Moreover, severity of emotional abuse was related to both behavior problems and depression. The differences between the patterns of effects for school-age children and those for adolescents are discussed, as are implications of the findings for intervention.
Research in the broad area of child maltreatment has investigated the effects of these phenomena globally and without much attempt to distinguish the nature and extent of such experiences. This study sought to examine the underlying structure of child maltreatment and relate this structure to current adolescent adjustment. A principal components analysis was conducted with 162 adolescents who had backgrounds of child maltreatment, using a comprehensive measure of such experiences at two developmental time periods (birth to 6 years, and 7–12 years). This analysis resulted in interpretable factors that were used to create scales measuring maltreatment in a continuous, nonredundant manner. These scales were used to test main and interaction effects of each type of maltreatment on current adjustment of adolescent males and females. For males (N = 71), the relationship between early maltreatment and adjustment was significantly enhanced when interactions between physical and psychological abuse and between partner abuse and neglect were entered into the equation. For females (N = 91), current adjustment was significantly related to the developmental period in which neglect or psychological abuse had occurred. Results are discussed in relation to measurement and theoretical issues.
This study examines the relationship of child sexual abuse to classroom academic performance and behavior in a sample of 6–16-year-old girls. Half of the sample was sexually abused by a family member. The other half is a demographically similar nonabused comparison group. Measures of academic performance include school records, teacher's ratings of classroom behavior and performance, and parental reports of school performance. Possible mediators of the impact of sexual abuse on classroom performance and behavior – cognitive capability, perceived competence, and behavior problems–are also measured. Results can be summarized as follows, (a) A history of sexual abuse does predict academic performance: Abuse is directly negatively related to ratings of classroom social competence, competent learner, and overall academic performance and positively related to school avoidant behavior, but is not related to grades, (b) Sexual abuse is negatively related to cognitive ability and positively related to measures of behavior problems indicating depression, destructiveness, and dissociation, (c) Cognitive ability and perceived competence predict the more “academic” aspects of academic performance—grades, ratings as a competent learner, and overall academic performance. Behavior problems predict ratings as a competent learner, classroom social competence, school avoidant behavior, and overall academmic performance.
Recent work on psychopathology supports a connection between repeated childhood maltreatment and disturbances in self-definition and -regulation. This study tested the hypothesis that chronic childhood sexual abuse is associated with developmentally complex affective splitting of representations of self-with-others, including both a negativity bias in evaluating core self and a high degree of affective splitting of scripts for self-in-relationships. Sixteen inpatient adolescent girls with affective disorders participated in the Self-in-Relationships Interview to produce and analyze a self-diagram; seven had been victims of prolonged sexual abuse, and nine had not. The results supported the hypothesis, showing two powerful differences in splitting between the groups, (a) The abused girls placed negative characteristics as central to their core self and also produced an unusually large overall number of negatives. The nonabused girls regarded negative characteristics as mostly peripheral in their self-diagram and produced fewer negatives, (b) The abused girls showed a form of complex dissociative coordination called polarized qffective splitting, which was not produced by the nonabused group. They also showed slightly higher developmental levels in general than the nonabused group, thus contradicting the traditional view that maltreatment produces splitting through developmental fixation or regression. Psychopathology from abuse arises along a complex, distinctive developmental pathway, not as a result of a delay or failure of development.
In this article, operational definitions of resiliency used in previous studies are reviewed. Data from a sample of 56 maltreated school-age children are then explored to highlight how variations in the source, type, and number of assessments obtained affect the rates of children classified as resilient. Assessments were obtained in three domains: academic achievement, social competence, and clinical symptomatology. Two sources of information were used to assess each domain, and three different data integration procedures were used to calculate rates of resiliency in the maltreated cohort. It is concluded that the most appropriate definition of resiliency to be used in future investigations depends on the aims of the study. If the goal of the study is to assess overall functioning, there is an advantage to using more broad, multidimensional assessments. If, in contrast, the goal of the study is to determine why some high-risk children develop particular types of problems, to identify underlying etiological processes associated with different outcomes, there is an advantage to using narrower definitions.
Substantial evidence indicates a link between exposure to family violence in childhood and troubled social relationships. We draw on attachment and social-cognitive theory to formulate a model of the mechanisms underlying this association. The model proposes that early experiences of overt rejection (e.g., physical maltreatment) or covert rejection (e.g., emotional neglect) are internalized as sensitivity to rejection. In this study, we operationalize sensitivity to rejection in social-cognitive terms as a tendency to expect and be concerned about rejection across a range of social situations. We hypothesize that rejection sensitivity mediates the link between exposure to family violence and adult attachment behavior. Data from a survey of 212 undergraduates support this hypothesis and also provide evidence that indicates sensitivity to rejection underlies both avoidant and ambivalent patterns of insecure adult attachment behavior. Overall, the results illustrate the power of a process approach to explaining the developmental sequelae of maltreatment.