Differential effects of psychological maltreatment on children of mothers exposed to intimate partner violence

Ariadna de la Vega, Nuria de la Osa, Lourdes Ezpeleta, Roser Granero, Josep María Domènech
Child Abuse & Neglect 2011, 35 (7): 524-31

OBJECTIVE: Psychological maltreatment (PM) is the most prevalent form of child abuse, and is the core component of most of what is considered as child maltreatment. The aim of this work was to explore differential adverse outcomes of the different types of PM in the mental health and functioning of children living in homes in which they are exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV).

METHOD: Participants were 168 children, aged between 4 and 17, whose mothers experienced IPV. They were assessed using different measures of psychopathology and functioning: Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents-IV, Child Behavior Checklists and Child and Adolescent Functioning Assessment Scale. Furthermore, IPV was assessed with the Schedule for Assessment of Intimate Partner Violence Exposure in Children and the Index of Spouse Abuse. Statistical analyses were carried out with regression models adjusted by means of Generalized Estimating Equations.

RESULTS: Spurning was the PM subtype with the greatest global effect on the children, as it was significantly associated with internalizing and externalizing problems. Denying emotional responsiveness specifically increased the risk of internalizing psychopathology and impairment in the emotional area. Terrorizing was not significantly associated with a greater number of negative outcomes in children's psychopathology or functioning in this population.

IMPLICATIONS: The results suggest the importance of taking PM types into account in order to fully understand the problems of children exposed to IPV at home, and for the design of effective treatment and prevention programs.

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