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The impact of psychological maltreatment

Psychological maltreatment has emerged as a significant predictor of a broad range of negative youth outcomes. Youth with histories of psychological maltreatment exhibit elevated rates of inattention, aggression, noncompliance, hyperactivity, conduct problems and delinquency (Caples & Barrera, 2006; Hart, Brassard, & Karlson, 1996; Manly, Kim, Rogosch, & Cicchetti, 2001).

This type of abuse has also been linked to internalizing symptoms, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidality and low self-esteem (McGee, et al., 1997; Stone, 1993; Wolfe & McGee, 1994).

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Differential predictive and potentiating effects

Growing evidence suggests that psychological maltreatment may exert negative predictive (and potentially causal) effects above and beyond those of other forms of maltreatment. McGee and colleagues found that psychological maltreatment accounted for the largest proportion of unique variance in externalizing symptoms and potentiated the adverse effects of other types of maltreatment, including physical and sexual abuse and neglect (McGee et al., 1997).

Similarly, compared with sexual and physical abuse, parental verbal abuse was associated with the largest predictive effects on measures of dissociation, depression and anger/hostility in young adults (Teicher, Samson, Polcari, & McGreenery, 2006). Further, Schneider and colleagues found that psychological maltreatment incrementally predicted maladjustment in adolescents above and beyond the predictive effects of other forms of maltreatment (Schneider, et al., 2005).

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