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Journal: Child abuse & neglect


Spanking is one of the most common forms of child discipline used by parents around the world. Research on children in high-income countries has shown that parental spanking is associated with adverse child outcomes, yet less is known about how spanking is related to child well-being in low- and middle-income countries. This study uses data from 215,885 children in 62 countries from the fourth and fifth rounds of UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) to examine the relationship between spanking and child well-being. In this large international sample which includes data from nearly one-third of the world’s countries, 43% of children were spanked, or resided in a household where another child was spanked, in the past month. Results from multilevel models show that reports of spanking of children in the household were associated with lower scores on a 3-item socioemotional development index among 3- and 4-year-old children. Country-level results from the multilevel model showed 59 countries (95%) had a negative relationship between spanking and socioemotional development and 3 countries (5%) had a null relationship. Spanking was not associated with higher socioemotional development for children in any country. While the cross-sectional association between spanking and socioemotional development is small, findings suggest that spanking may be harmful for children on a more global scale than was previously known.


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as child abuse are related to poor health outcomes. Spanking has indicated a similar association with health outcomes, but to date has not been considered an ACE. Physical and emotional abuse have been shown in previous research to correlate highly and may be similar in nature to spanking. To determine if spanking should be considered an ACE, this study aimed to examine 1): the grouping of spanking with physical and emotional abuse; and 2) if spanking has similar associations with poor adult health problems and accounts for additional model variance. Adult mental health problems included depressive affect, suicide attempts, moderate to heavy drinking, and street drug use. Data were from the CDC-Kaiser ACE study (N=8316, response rate=65%). Spanking loaded on the same factor as the physical and emotional abuse items. Additionally, spanking was associated with increased odds of suicide attempts (Adjusted Odds Ratios (AOR)=1.37; 95% CI=1.02 to1.86), moderate to heavy drinking (AOR)=1.23; 95% CI=1.07 to 1.41), and the use of street drugs (AOR)=1.32; 95% CI=1.4 to 1.52) in adulthood over and above experiencing physical and emotional abuse. This indicates spanking accounts for additional model variance and improves our understanding of these outcomes. Thus, spanking is empirically similar to physical and emotional abuse and including spanking with abuse adds to our understanding of these mental health problems. Spanking should also be considered an ACE and addressed in efforts to prevent violence.

Concepts: Domestic violence, Drug, Drug addiction, Mental disorder, Child abuse, Major depressive disorder, Psychiatry, Recreational drug use


Verbal abuse during pregnancy has a greater impact than physical and sexual violence on the incidence of postnatal depression and maternal abuse behavior towards their children. In addition, exposure of children (aged 12 months to adolescence) to verbal abuse from their parents exerts an adverse impact to the children’s auditory function. However, the effect of verbal abuse during pregnancy on fetal auditory function has not yet been thoroughly investigated.


Childhood adversity negatively impacts the biological development of children and has been linked to poor health outcomes across the life course. The purpose of this literature review is to explore and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions that have addressed an array of biological markers and physical health outcomes in children and adolescents affected by adversity. PubMed, CINAHL, PsychInfo, Sociological Abstracts databases and additional sources (Cochrane, WHO, NIH trial registries) were searched for English language studies published between January 2007 and September 2017. Articles with a childhood adversity exposure, biological health outcome, and evaluation of intervention using a randomized controlled trial study design were selected. The resulting 40 intervention studies addressed cortisol outcomes (n = 20) and a range of neurological, epigenetic, immune, and other outcomes (n = 22). Across institutional, foster care, and community settings, intervention programs demonstrated success overall for improving or normalizing morning and diurnal cortisol levels, and ameliorating the impacts of adversity on brain development, epigenetic regulation, and additional outcomes in children. Factors such as earlier timing of intervention, high quality and nurturant parenting traits, and greater intervention engagement played a role in intervention success. This study underlines progress and promise in addressing the health impacts of adversity in children. Ongoing research efforts should collect baseline data, improve retention, replicate studies in additional samples and settings, and evaluate additional variables, resilience factors, mediators, and long-term implications of results. Clinicians should integrate lessons from the intervention sciences for preventing and treating the health effects of adversity in children and adolescents.


Stress and compromised parenting often place children at risk of abuse and neglect. Child maltreatment has generally been viewed as a highly individualistic problem by focusing on stressors and parenting behaviors that impact individual families. However, because of the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), families across the world are experiencing a new range of stressors that threaten their health, safety, and economic well-being.


OBJECTIVES: In comparison to other traumatic events, the impact of a childhood during war on resilience later in life has been seldom examined. The aim of this study was therefore to examine the long term outcomes of post-traumatic responses and resilience of a sample of adult Indigenous Quechua women, who were girls or adolescents during the Peruvian armed conflict (1980-1995). METHODS: The study instruments (Harvard Trauma Questionnaire Part I and IV; Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale; Life Stress Questionnaire) were translated to Quechua and cross-culturally validated. A cross sectional survey design was used in 2010 to collect data from a convenience sample of 75 participants (25-45 years old) in Ayacucho, Peru, the region most affected by the conflict. Data was examined using hierarchical regression analyses. RESULTS: Participants reported extreme exposure to violence (e.g., sexual violence, torture, combat, death of family members, and forced displacement) during the armed conflict, but surprisingly, only 5.3% reported a current level of symptoms that may indicate a possible post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Resilience scores and number of years exposed to conflict as a child were not associated with PTSD symptoms; instead only the degree of exposure to violence, and current level of stress contributed to the variance of PTSD-related symptoms. Conversely, resilience and current stress contributed to the variance of trauma symptoms when measured by local idioms of distress. CONCLUSIONS: Findings should be interpreted with caution, due to limitations in the content validity of instruments, risk of inaccurate recall, use of individual explanations of distress (such as PTSD) for collective experiences of violence, use of non-indigenous frameworks to examine Indigenous resilience, and other methodological concerns. The study however highlights the high degree of traumatic exposure of these former war children. While the prevalence of potential PTSD was astonishingly low in this sample, a number of women still suffer from significant distress two decades after the traumatic events. Therefore, post-conflict interventions should renew efforts to foster the resilience of marginalized populations disproportionately targeted by violence and advocate for enhanced protection of women and children in current armed conflicts.

Concepts: Psychological trauma, Violence, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Prolonged exposure therapy, Rape, PTSD, War, Peru


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are increasingly recognized as important predictors of poor health outcomes. In response, there is increasing application of ACEs questionnaires in clinical practice and population health surveys. Such efforts are often justified as approaches to identify ACEs, components of trauma-informed care, and/or measures to determine prevalence within epidemiological research. Unfortunately, such measures are often used without evaluating the strengths and limitations of the measures themselves. One of the most commonly used ACEs questionnaires is a ten-question version (ACEs-10), that is composed of two clusters - one asking about different types of child maltreatment, and the other asking select questions about household challenges. Unfortunately, both this questionnaire and its derivatives have substantial drawbacks that warrant careful consideration about their use. Problems include limited item coverage, collapsing of items and response options, a simplistic scoring approach, and the lack of psychometric assessment. These deficiencies are inconsistent with the standards expected for use of measures in healthcare services and research. Given these deficiencies, we recommend that these limitations are addressed before further use of ACEs-10, and its derivatives, for either clinical or research purposes.


The aim of this study is to investigate epidemiological characteristics of the victims and the offenders in children homicide cases and to propose preventive measures. We retrospectively investigated homicides and deaths by neglect involving children aged 15 or less, which have been autopsied in the Department of Pathology and Legal Medicine of the Raymond Poincaré Hospital, Garches, France, during the 18-year period from 1991 to 2008. Cases included were analyzed for victims' age and gender, victim-assailant’s relation, death cause and scenery, and offender’s motivation. For the purposes of the study, victims were divided into four age groups: new born; infants (1-23 months); young children (2-5 years); and children (6-15 years). During the study period, 70 victims of homicide or fatal neglect were identified, which equates to a child homicide prevalence of 0.56 per 100,000 children per year. Slightly more than half of the victims (51.4%) were less than 1 year old. Neonaticide prevalence was 0.12 per 100,000 births with an equal distribution between genders. Neonates were most likely to be killed by their mothers while fathers were the most frequent assailants in both infants and children groups. Stepparents were involved in only one case. Familicide cases where children and spouses are killed were perpetrated only by fathers. The leading cause of death was blunt trauma (especially head trauma). In the neonaticide group, half of the victims died from passive neglect whereas gunshots were predominant in the children groups.

Concepts: Death, Senescence, Demography, Gerontology, Ageing, Homicide, Causes of death, Murder


In cases of maltreatment involving children of U.S. Army service members, the U.S. Army Family Advocacy Program (FAP) is responsible for providing services to families and ensuring child safety. The percentage of cases of maltreatment that are known to FAP, however, is uncertain. Thus, the objective of this retrospective study was to estimate the percentage of U.S. Army dependent children with child maltreatment as diagnosed by a military or civilian medical provider who had a substantiated report with FAP from 2004 to 2007. Medical claims data were used to identify 0-17year old child dependents of soldiers who received a medical diagnosis of child maltreatment. Linkage rates of maltreatment medical diagnoses with corresponding substantiated FAP reports were calculated. Bivariate and multivariable analyses examined the association of child, maltreatment episode, and soldier characteristics with linkage to substantiated FAP reports. Across 5945 medically diagnosed maltreatment episodes, 20.3% had a substantiated FAP report. Adjusting for covariates, the predicted probability of linkage to a substantiated FAP report was higher for physical abuse than for sexual abuse, 25.8%, 95% CI (23.4, 28.3) versus 14.5%, 95% CI (11.2, 17.9). Episodes in which early care was provided at civilian treatment facilities were less likely to have a FAP report than those treated at military facilities, 9.8%, 95% CI (7.3, 12.2) versus 23.6%, 95% CI (20.8, 26.4). The observed low rates of linkage of medically diagnosed child maltreatment to substantiated FAP reports may signal the need for further regulation of FAP reporting requirements, particularly for children treated at civilian facilities.

Concepts: Domestic violence, Child abuse, Physical abuse


The present study investigated the perceived emotional behavior of alleged child victims when disclosing sexual abuse in a forensic interview. It also addressed whether the perceived emotional behavior influenced prosecutors' evaluations of children’s potential as witnesses and prosecutors' recommendations to press charges. Ninety-eight videotapes of forensic interviews with alleged child sexual abuse victims (4- to 17-year-olds) were coded for behavioral indicators of emotions. Case file information and district attorney evaluations were also coded. Results indicated that children were not generally perceived as being emotional (e.g., sad) during disclosure. However, the perceived intensity of expressed emotions was greater when children disclosed the alleged abuse compared to when they discussed more neutral topics in rapport building. Greater perceived emotional withdrawal by children at disclosure was associated with more negative evaluations of child witnesses by prosecutors. Moreover, children’s emotional behaviors, as noted by prosecutors, were among the predictors of prosecutors' recommendations to file charges. Practical implications are discussed.

Concepts: Psychology, Behavior, Human behavior, Emotion, William James