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Psychological Maltreatment: A Widespread and Often Overlooked Form of Child Maltreatment

Updated: Jan 9, 2020

We know now that psychological maltreatment is widespread. Estimates vary depending on whether data are collected from self-report (the participants reporting on their own experiences) or from informants or official records (such as child protection cases). However, it is safe to conclude that between 10% and 30% of the general population has experienced moderate levels of psychological maltreatment during their lifetime. We also know that exposure to PM is associated with a host of negative outcomes for individuals and that when combined with other forms of childhood maltreatment PM will exacerbate their effects as well. Protecting children from this insidious form of childhood maltreatment should be a high priority for anyone working with children and families. We are concerned that that too many mental health professionals and others working with high risk families are not actually trained to identify PM, to know how to differentiate it from poor parenting, and to determine when a case should be called in to child protection. We consider this a very serious omission and plan to develop a series of recommendations based on a current survey of APSAC members (see research page for more information about our study). -- Amy J.L. Baker


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