, Volume 24, Issue 7, pp 485-496
Date: 21 May 2009

Assessing a Child’s Experience of Multiple Maltreatment Types: Some Unfinished Business

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Available research indicates that maltreated children frequently experience multiple types of maltreatment, although relatively few studies examine this issue directly. Review of existing studies also shows that, when investigated, maltreatment types are often correlated. However, from study to study the strength of associations among maltreatment types varies considerably, apparently due to methodological differences, such as differences in operational definitions of the maltreatment types, composition of samples and/or method of scaling used. Failure to account for overlap among maltreatment types can result in a misleading picture of a child’s trauma history. This in turn can lead to an inaccurate evaluation of the relationship between a child’s victimization experiences and later developmental outcomes. The wide variation in correlations among the maltreatment types from study to study raises questions about the validity of the different operational definitions used. Improving the construct validity of the maltreatment type measures is proposed as the means to obtaining more consistent results. Steps by which to achieve this objective are outlined.

This project (1 RO1 HD049767-01A2) is co-funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). The authors wish to thank M. Jean Russo for reviewing a draft of this paper.