Development and Psychopathology


The impact of subtype, frequency, chronicity, and severity of child maltreatment on social competence and behavior problems

Jody Todd Manlya1 c1, Dante Cicchettia1 and Douglas Barnetta2

a1 Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester

a2 Wayne State University


This investigation examined the impact of dimensions within maltreatment such as the severity, frequency, chronicity, and subtypes of maltreatment and their relationship with child outcome. Children between the ages of 5 and 11 who participated in a summer camp program were assessed on their social competence, behavior problems, and peers ratings of cooperation, disruption, and initiation of aggression. The 235 participants were all from low-socioeconomic status families; 145 children were from families with documented histories of child maltreatment, whereas 90 of the children had no record of maltreatment. The study found that severity of the maltreatment, the frequency of Child Protective Services reports, and the interaction between severity and frequency were significant predictors of children's functioning. Additionally, the chronicity of the maltreatment in the family significantly predicted peer ratings of aggression. Subtype differences emerged as well, with children in the sexual abuse group being more socially competent than other maltreated children, and children in the physical abuse group having more behavior problems than nonmaltreated children. Regression analyses with cooccurrence of multiple subtypes of maltreatment indicated that physical neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse made significant unique contributions in predicting child outcomes. The advantages of exploring multiple dimensions within maltreatment, the necessity of developing better operational definitions of these dimensions, and social policy implications of the findings are discussed.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jody Todd Manly, Mt. Hope Family Center, 187 Edinburgh St., Rochester, NY 14608.