Child Maltreatment and Its Association with School Factors and Mental Health in Early Adolescence
Author: Johan Melander Hagborg, PhD Student of Psychology, GU
The overall aim of the two studies included in this thesis was to investigate in a general sample of Swedish adolescents the role that self-reported child maltreatment played in their mental health (i.e., externalizing and internalizing symptoms), mental well-being, and academic functioning (i.e., school absenteeism and relationships with teachers). Data was collected via self-report questionnaires administered in classroom settings from 1134 (Study I) respectively 1316 (Study II) students. Study I aimed to explore the relationship between self-reported emotional maltreatment (i.e., emotional neglect and emotional abuse) and mental health and mental well-being among 1134 12- to 13-year-old girls and boys (mean age = 12.7, SD = 0.6). Emotional maltreatment had significant effects on mental health and mental well-being for both girls and boys. There were also significant interaction effects between gender and levels of emotional maltreatment on mental health. Girls reported decreased mental health and mental well-being at lower degrees of emotional maltreatment than boys. Furthermore, girls reported a higher degree of mental health problems in response to emotional maltreatment than boys. For internalizing symptoms, mental well-being, and psychosomatic symptoms, greater exposures to emotional maltreatment seemed to magnify gender differences. The aim of Study II was to examine the relationship between child maltreatment and school absenteeism among 14- to 15-year-old girls and boys (mean age = 14.3, SD = 0.6) focusing on differences in the prevalence of self-reported child maltreatment between non-absentees and absentees. We also analyzed differences between maltreated and non-maltreated absentees in mental health, perceived school environment, and peer victimization in school. Roughly 25% of absentees reported one subtype of maltreatment (16% of the total sample) and a mean of 22% of absentees reported two or more subtypes of maltreatment (11% of the total sample). Maltreated absentees reported more mental health problems, personal harassment, and negative relationships with their teachers compared to not-maltreated absentees. Results from the two studies included in this licentiate thesis indicate that child maltreatment is associated with a wide array of negative outcomes in adolescence. Results also support the need to stratify analyses by gender and maltreatment severity.
This research is financed by:
Swedish Research Council, FORTE, VINNOVA, Formas.
Contact: Johan Hagborg, Registered Psychologist, and PhD Student of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Gothenburg University.