An important study finds that children
who have been psychologically maltreated suffer
effects that are equal or greater than children
who have been physically or sexually abused.
By Joseph Spinazzola, PhD, Hilary Hodgdon, PhD, Li-Jung Liang, PhD,
Julian D. Ford, PhD, Christopher M. Layne, PhD, Robert Pynoos, MD,
Ernestine C. Briggs, PhD, Bradley Stolbach, PhD, and Cassandra Kisiel, PhD
CE credits: 1
Exam items: 10
After completing this course participants will be able to:
• Define psychological maltreatment.
• Compare and contrast the effects of psychological, sexual and physical abuse on child
and adolescent clinical and behavioral outcomes.
• Reconsider conceptual models of polyvictimization (e.g., cumulative versus weighted/
type-specific effects of exposure) in light of study findings.
Every year, nearly 3 million U.S. children experience some form of maltreatment, usually perpetrated by a parent, family member or other adult caregiver, according to the U.S. Children’s Bureau (2010). Although more subtle to detect,
psychological maltreatment is a common form of such abuse.
The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children defines psychological
maltreatment as “a repeated pattern of caregiver behavior or a serious incident that
transmits to the child that s/he is worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered or
only of value in meeting another’s needs.”