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Comparing Physically Abused, Neglected, and Nonmaltreated Children During Interactions with their Parents: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies

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A meta-analysis of 30 observational studies compares abused, neglected, and nonmaltreated children's behavior during interactions with their parents. Drawing on the relational communication literature, children's behaviors from various coding schemes were grouped into those communicating positivity (e.g., affection, approval), aversiveness (e.g., anger, resistance), and involvement (e.g., attention, interest). Results reveal that abused and neglected children are distinguished from nonmaltreated children on all three behavioral clusters, with overall mean weighted effect sizes ranging from d=.29 to .55. Several moderators qualify the magnitude though not the direction of these differences, including maltreatment type, child/parent age, and observation length and setting. These findings have implications for understanding the etiology and outcomes of child maltreatment as well as for intervention and prevention efforts.

Keywords: Child Abuse and Neglect; Meta-Analysis; Observational Research; Parent-Child Interaction; Relational Communication

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2010


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