Child maltreatment and executive functioning in middle adulthood: a prospective examination

Valentina Nikulina, Cathy Spatz Widom
Neuropsychology 2013, 27 (4): 417-27

OBJECTIVE: There is extensive evidence of negative consequences of childhood maltreatment for IQ, academic achievement, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and increased attention to neurobiological consequences. However, few prospective studies have assessed the long-term effects of abuse and neglect on executive functioning. This study examined whether childhood abuse and neglect predicts components of executive functioning and nonverbal reasoning ability in middle adulthood and whether PTSD moderates this relationship.

METHOD: Using a prospective cohort design, a large sample (N = 792) of court-substantiated cases of childhood physical and sexual abuse and neglect (ages 0-11 years) and matched controls were followed into adulthood (mean age = 41 years). Executive functioning was assessed with the Trail Making Test-Part B and nonverbal reasoning was assessed with the Matrix Reasoning test. PTSD (DSM-III-R lifetime diagnosis) was assessed at age 29 years. Data were analyzed using ordinary least squares regressions, controlling for age, sex, and race, and possible confounds of IQ, depression, and excessive alcohol use.

RESULTS: In multivariate analyses, childhood maltreatment overall and childhood neglect predicted poorer executive functioning and nonverbal reasoning at age 41 years, whereas physical and sexual abuse did not. A past history of PTSD did not mediate or moderate these relations.

CONCLUSIONS: Childhood maltreatment and neglect specifically have a significant long-term impact on important aspects of adult neuropsychological functioning. These findings suggest the need for targeted efforts dedicated to interventions for neglected children.


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Available on the App Store

Available on the Play Store
Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"