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Journal: Child maltreatment


The primary aim of the current study was to examine self-criticism as a potential mechanism mediating the relation between mothers' own childhood maltreatment history and changes in subsequent maternal efficacy beliefs in a diverse sample of low-income mothers with and without major depressive disorder. Longitudinal data were drawn from a larger randomized clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of interpersonal psychotherapy for depression among low-income mothers and their 12-month-old infant. Results indicated that higher levels of maltreatment in childhood led mothers to hold more self-critical judgments in adulthood. Additionally, mothers who had experienced more extensive childhood maltreatment histories perceived themselves as less efficacious in their role as mother. Structural equation modeling indicated that self-criticism mediated the relationship between childhood maltreatment and mothers' decreased perceived competency in her maternal role from when her child was an infant to the more demanding toddler years. Finally, this relationship held over and above the influence of mothers' depressive diagnostic status. Directions for future research and the clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Effectiveness, Efficacy, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Major depressive disorder, Dysthymia, Interpersonal psychotherapy


The current study compared behavioral and adrenocortical functioning of maltreated ( N = 91) and comparably aged (1.5-3 years) institutionally-reared children soon after (1.5-2.5 months) placement in foster care or adoptive homes, respectively. Foster and adoptive parents reported on the children’s socioemotional competence and behavior problems, experimenters scored fear and positive affect to laboratory tasks, and diurnal cortisol measures were obtained. We sought to address whether these early contexts, characterized by different types of neglect and deprivation, have differential effects on young children’s development. We found little support for the argument that either context results in uniformly poorer functioning soon after removal from adversity. Maltreated children were less fearful and more positive when exposed to both positive and novel events than institutionally-reared children. However, maltreated children were reported to have more behavior problems than did institutionally-reared children, and institutionally-reared children showed more typical declines in cortisol throughout the day than the maltreated children. These findings increase our ability to construct more targeted and effective interventions for these populations.


Recent research has used synthetic cohort life tables to show that having a Child Protective Services investigation, experiencing confirmed maltreatment, and being placed in foster care are more common for American children than would be expected based on daily or annual rates for these events. In this article, we extend this literature by using synthetic cohort life tables and data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System to generate the first cumulative prevalence estimates of termination of parental rights. The results provide support for four conclusions. First, according to the 2016 estimate, 1 in 100 U.S. children will experience the termination of parental rights by age 18. Second, the risk of experiencing this event is highest in the first few years of life. Third, risks are highest for Native American and African American children. Nearly 3.0% of Native American children and around 1.5% of African American children will ever experience this event. Finally, there is dramatic variation across states in the risk of experiencing this event and in racial/ethnic inequality in this risk. Taken together, these findings suggest that parental rights termination, which involves the permanent loss of access to children for parents, is far more common than often thought.


Among individuals defined as having been sexually abused based on legal criteria, some will self-report having been abused and some will not. Yet, the empirical correlates of self-definition status are not well studied. Different definitions of abuse may lead to varying prevalence rates and contradictory findings regarding psychological outcomes. The present study examined whether, among legally defined sexual abuse survivors, identifying oneself as having experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA) was associated with more severe abuse, negative emotional reactions toward the abuse, and current sexual reactions. A convenience sample of 1,021 French-speaking Canadians completed self-report questionnaires online. The prevalence of legally defined CSA was 21.3% in women and 19.6% in men, as compared to 7.1% in women and 3.8% in men for self-defined CSA. Among legally defined sexual abuse survivors, those who identified themselves as CSA survivors had been abused more frequently, were more likely to report a male aggressor, and more often described abuse by a parental figure than those who did not self-identify as abused. Further, self-defined CSA was associated with more negative postabuse reactions and sexual avoidance, whereas those not identifying as sexually abused were more likely to report sexual compulsion.

Concepts: Psychological trauma, Child sexual abuse, Human sexual behavior, Human sexuality, Child abuse, Sexual abuse, Rape, Dissociative identity disorder


The present study sought to examine features of sexual abuse cases among a U.S. nationally representative sample of 13,052 children and adolescents, ages 0-17 years. The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence was collected in three different years (2008, 2011, and 2014) via telephone interviews. Information about sexual abuse and assault was obtained from youth themselves (ages 10-17) or caregivers (for children ages 0-9) using the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire. Results indicate most offenses are at the hands of other juveniles (76.7% for males and 70.1% for females), primarily acquaintances, and occurring more frequently for adolescents aged 14-17. Whereas girls are mostly abused by males (88.4%), boys are abused by both males (45.6%) and females (54.4%). In 15% of cases, penetration is part of the abuse. Victims report being very afraid in 37.5% of episodes but not at all afraid in 19.8%. Among 10- to 17-year-olds, 66.3% of episodes are not reported to parents or any adult. Police reports occur for 19.1% of all cases. The results in the present study indicate that children and youth are exposed to sexual abuse and assault in varied ways, which require moving beyond conventional stereotypes of the problem.


The aim of the present study was 2-fold: (1) to utilize improved amygdala segmentation and exploratory factor analysis to characterize the latent volumetric structure among amygdala nuclei and (2) to assess the effect of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on amygdalar morphometry and current psychiatric symptoms. To investigate these aims, structural (T1) MRI and self-report data were obtained from 119 emerging adults. Regression analysis showed that higher ACE scores were related to reduced volume of the right, but not the left, amygdalar segments. Further, exploratory factor analysis yielded a two-factor structure, basolateral and central-medial nuclei of the right amygdala. Stractual equation modeling analyses revealed that higher ACE scores were significantly related to a reduced volume of the right basolateral and central-medial segments. Furthermore, reduction in the right basolateral amygdala was associated with increased anxiety, depressive symptoms, and alcohol use. This association supports an indirect effect between early adversity and psychiatric problems via reduced right basolateral amygdalar volume. The high-resolution segmentation results reveal a latent structure among amygdalar nuclei, which is consistent with prior work conducted in nonhuman mammals. These findings extend previous reports linking early adversity, right amygdala volume, and psychopathology.


Child maltreatment is associated with a variety of risk behaviors in young adulthood; however, the underlying cognitive and neural mechanisms of this relation are not well understood. The primary aim of the present study was to examine the direct and indirect effects between maltreatment in childhood and downstream impulsivity via neural activity during a cognitive task. In a sample of emerging adult women from the rural southeastern United States, childhood abuse and neglect were assessed using the childhood trauma questionnaire. Outcome measures of neural activity during a functional magnetic resonance imaging N-back verbal working memory (WM) task and trait impulsivity on the Impulsive Behavior Scale were assessed approximately 1 year later. Results indicate that adults with higher levels of reported childhood maltreatment demonstrate worse behavioral performance and lower neural response during a difficult verbal WM task. Furthermore, neural activity significantly mediated the relation between abuse and neglect in childhood and trait impulsivity. These new findings demonstrate an association between neurocognitive functioning and reported childhood abuse and neglect, and indicate that such changes may underlie the relation between maltreatment and trait-level impulsivity.


This study examined how the combination of sibling victimization and parental child maltreatment is related to mental health problems and delinquency in childhood and adolescence. Co-occurrence, additive associations, and interactive associations of sibling victimization and parental child maltreatment were investigated using a sample of 2,053 children aged 5-17 years from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence. The results provide primarily evidence for additive associations and only suggest some co-occurrence and interactive associations of sibling victimization and child maltreatment. Evidence for co-occurrence was weak and, when controlling for the other type of maltreatment, only found for neglect. Sibling victimization was related to more mental health problems and delinquency over and above the effect of child abuse and neglect. Moderation by sibling victimization depended on child age and was only found for the relation between both types of child maltreatment by parents and delinquency. For mental health, no interactive associations were found. These results highlight the unique and combined associations between sibling victimization on child development.

Concepts: Childhood, Child abuse, Abuse, Neglect


While home visiting programs are among the most widespread interventions to support at-risk families, there is a paucity of research investigating these programs under real-world conditions. The effectiveness of Families First home visiting (FFHV) was examined for decreasing rates of being in care of child welfare, decreasing hospitalizations for maltreatment-related injuries, and improving child development at school entry. Data for 4,562 children from home visiting and 5,184 comparison children were linked to deidentified administrative health, social services, and education data. FFHV was associated with lower rates of being in care by child’s first, second, and third birthday (adjusted risk ratio [aRR] = 0.75, 0.79, and 0.81, respectively) and lower rates of hospitalization for maltreatment-related injuries by third birthday (aRR = 0.59). No differences were found in child development at kindergarten. FFHV should be offered to at-risk families to decrease child maltreatment. Program enhancements are required to improve child development at school entry.

Concepts: Improve, Effectiveness, Child, Childhood, Computer program, Developmental psychology, Human development, Program


Children’s disclosures of sexual abuse during forensic interviews are fundamental to the investigation of cases. Research examining the relationship between age and disclosure has shown mixed results; the aim of the current study was to clarify and extend our knowledge by modeling linear, quadratic, and interaction effects of age on disclosure. Child sexual abuse reports made by children, their caregivers, or mandated reporters over a 12-month period to police in one state of Australia were examined. Of the 527 children (age range 3-16 years) offered a forensic interview, 81% disclosed abuse during it. The other 19% did not disclose or refused the interview. Age had both linear and quadratic effects, whereby disclosure increased with age until 11 years, after which disclosure decreased with age to 16 years. The effect of age on disclosure was moderated by five variables: abuse severity, the child-suspect relationship, suspects' violence histories, delay of report to police, and children’s previous disclosures. Particular groups of children had lower likelihoods of disclosing abuse in forensic interviews than others, such as adolescents who alleged abuse against suspects with histories of violent offending. By identifying these groups, targeted strategies may be developed to help increase their disclosure rates.

Concepts: Domestic violence, Effect, Effects unit, Violence, Child abuse, Interview, Terrorism, Fundamental frequency