Psychosocial and cognitive functioning of children with specific profiles of maltreatment

Katherine C Pears, Hyoun K Kim, Philip A Fisher
Child Abuse & Neglect 2008, 32 (10): 958-71

OBJECTIVE: Up to 90% of child welfare system cases involve multiple types of maltreatment; however, studies have rarely incorporated multiple dimensions of maltreatment. The present study employed a latent profile analysis to identify naturally occurring subgroups of children who had experienced maltreatment.

METHODS: Reports of maltreatment incidents for 117 preschool-aged foster children were classified along two dimensions: type (e.g., physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, supervisory neglect, or emotional maltreatment) and severity within type.

RESULTS: The analyses revealed four distinct profiles showing moderate to high levels of maltreatment: (a) supervisory neglect/emotional maltreatment; (b) sexual abuse/emotional maltreatment/neglect (when not otherwise specified neglect refers to both supervisory and physical neglect); (c) physical abuse/emotional maltreatment/neglect; and (d) sexual abuse/physical abuse/emotional maltreatment/neglect. Profile membership was examined with respect to the children's cognitive functioning and externalizing and internalizing problems: lower cognitive functioning was related to profiles with neglect or physical abuse (or both), externalizing was highest in the sexual abuse/physical abuse/emotional maltreatment/neglect profile, and internalizing was highest in the profiles with physical or sexual abuse (or both).

CONCLUSIONS: There appear to be distinct profiles of maltreatment among preschoolers that have differential associations to measures of adjustment. Policy and practice implications and future research directions are discussed.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Using different profiles of maltreatment to understand specific vulnerabilities may guide in tailoring interventions to the needs of maltreated children.


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