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Journal: Child abuse & neglect


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


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.


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


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, Physical abuse, Child 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: William James, Human behavior, Behavior, Emotion, Psychology


Harsh or frequent spanking in early childhood is an established risk factor for later childhood behavioral problems as well as mental disorder in adulthood in Western societies. However, few studies have been conducted in Asian populations, where corporal punishment is relatively accepted. Moreover, the impacts of occasional spanking on subsequent behavioral problems remain uncertain. This study sought to investigate prospectively the association between the frequency of spanking of toddlers and later behavioral problems in Japanese children using national birth cohort data. We used data from the Longitudinal Survey of Newborns in the 21st Century, a population-based birth cohort data set collected by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (N=29,182). Frequency of spanking (“never”, “sometimes” and “always”) and child behavioral problems were assessed via a caregiver questionnaire when the child was 3.5 years old and again at 5.5 years. Propensity score matching was used to examine the association between frequency of spanking and child behavioral problems, adjusting for parental socioeconomic status, child temperament and parenting behaviors. Compared to children who were never spanked, occasional spanking (“sometimes”) showed a higher number of behavioral problems (on a 6-point scale) (coefficient: 0.11, 95% CI: 0.07-0.15), and frequent spanking (“always”) showed an even larger number of behavioral problems compared with “sometimes” (coefficient: 0.08, 95% CI:0.01-0.16). Spanking of any self-reported frequency was associated with an increased risk for later behavioral problems in children.

Concepts: School corporal punishment, 21st century, Sociology, Corporal punishment in the home, Spanking, Cohort study, Childhood, Corporal punishment


As indicated by research on the long-term effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), maltreatment has far-reaching consequences for affected children. Effective prevention measures have been elusive, partly due to difficulty in identifying vulnerable children before they are harmed. This study employs Risk Terrain Modeling (RTM), an analysis of the cumulative effect of environmental factors thought to be conducive for child maltreatment, to create a highly accurate prediction model for future substantiated child maltreatment cases in the City of Fort Worth, Texas. The model is superior to commonly used hotspot predictions and more beneficial in aiding prevention efforts in a number of ways: 1) it identifies the highest risk areas for future instances of child maltreatment with improved precision and accuracy; 2) it aids the prioritization of risk-mitigating efforts by informing about the relative importance of the most significant contributing risk factors; 3) since predictions are modeled as a function of easily obtainable data, practitioners do not have to undergo the difficult process of obtaining official child maltreatment data to apply it; 4) the inclusion of a multitude of environmental risk factors creates a more robust model with higher predictive validity; and, 5) the model does not rely on a retrospective examination of past instances of child maltreatment, but adapts predictions to changing environmental conditions. The present study introduces and examines the predictive power of this new tool to aid prevention efforts seeking to improve the safety, health, and wellbeing of vulnerable children.

Concepts: Child, Psychometrics, Prophecy, Forecasting, Futurology, Prediction, Accuracy and precision, Future


This systematic review assessed the current state of the literature on sexually exploited boys internationally. We aimed to describe what is known about sexual exploitation of boys, identify gaps in the literature, provide implications for practice, and make recommendations for future research. Multiple database searches were conducted using a combination of controlled vocabulary and keywords to capture child and adolescent sexual exploitation. Our search identified 11,099 unique references and excluded studies that did not include male participants less than 18 years old or disaggregate results by relevant age groups and/or by sex. This review identified 42 studies from 23 countries, providing evidence that sexual exploitation of boys is an issue in both high- and low-income countries. Seventeen articles had sexual exploitation as their primary variable of interest, the majority of which sampled boys who accessed services (i.e., shelters, health care, social, and justice services). Boys' experiences of sexual exploitation varied in terms of venue, exploiters, and compensation. Compared to their non-sexually exploited peers, sexually exploited boys more commonly reported experiences of child abuse, substance use, conduct problems, and mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and self-harm. Despite increasing evidence that boys are sexually exploited around the world, the current literature provides limited data about the antecedents, sequelae, and the specific features of sexual exploitation experiences among boys. Further research is needed to inform, policy, social services and health care delivery specific to the needs of sexually exploited boys.

Concepts: Illness, Massachusetts, Public health, Health insurance, Health, Human sexual behavior, Medicine, Health care


We examine associations between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and substance abuse, the role of mental health indicators as mediators in these associations and whether or not associations differ by gender. Data are from 14,063 respondents aged 18-76 years from the 2004-2005 Canadian Gender, Alcohol, and Culture: An International Study (GENACIS). Multiple logistic regression models were used to examine associations between CSA and substance abuse variables, controlling for socio-demographic factors. Odds were adjusted by indicators of mental health to assess if these variables mediated associations between CSA and substance abuse. Tests of interactions between sex and CSA were conducted to see if gender differences exist in associations. In 2004/2005, CSA was reported by 14% of women and 5% of men. CSA was associated with heavy drinking, hazardous drinking, and the use of marijuana, other illicit drugs, and off-label drugs. Associations were only very marginally attenuated when controlling for depression and self-perceived emotional/mental health. In all cases previously observed significant associations persisted. Evidence of gender differences in associations between CSA and substance abuse was negligible. Preventing CSA may also reduce substance abuse.

Concepts: Alcoholism, Gender, Child abuse, Addiction, Gender role, Drug addiction, Logistic regression, Regression analysis


Child maltreatment is a public health concern with well-established sequelae. However, compared to research on physical and sexual abuse, far less is known about the long-term impact of emotional maltreatment on mental health. The overall purpose of this study was to examine the association of emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and both emotional abuse and neglect with other types of child maltreatment, a family history of dysfunction, and lifetime diagnoses of several Axis I and Axis II mental disorders. Data were from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions collected in 2004 and 2005 (n=34,653). The most prevalent form of emotional maltreatment was emotional neglect only (6.2%), followed by emotional abuse only (4.8%), and then both emotional abuse and neglect (3.1%). All categories of emotional maltreatment were strongly related to other forms of child maltreatment (odds ratios [ORs] ranged from 2.1 to 68.0) and a history of family dysfunction (ORs ranged from 2.2 to 8.3). In models adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, all categories of emotional maltreatment were associated with increased odds of almost every mental disorder assessed in this study (adjusted ORs ranged from 1.2 to 7.4). Many relationships remained significant independent of experiencing other forms of child maltreatment and a family history of dysfunction (adjusted ORs ranged from 1.2 to 3.0). The effects appeared to be greater for active (i.e., emotional abuse) relative to passive (i.e., emotional neglect) forms of emotional maltreatment. Childhood emotional maltreatment, particularly emotionally abusive acts, is associated with increased odds of lifetime diagnoses of several Axis I and Axis II mental disorders.

Concepts: Psychological manipulation, Family therapy, Bullying, Neglect, Mental disorder, Psychological abuse, Abuse, Child abuse