The relationship between childhood maltreatment subtypes and adolescent internalizing problems: The mediating role of maladaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategies

Yuhan Zhang, Wei Xu, Dean McDonnell, Jin Liang Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: While childhood maltreatment is understood to be a significant risk factor for adolescent internalizing problems (depression and anxiety), underlying mechanisms linking each type of maltreatment to internalizing problems in adolescents remain unclear. Moreover, the current state of knowledge regarding the associations between maladaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategies and each type of maltreatment, as well as their impact on adolescent internalizing problems, is limited. Additionally, it remains unclear whether these maladaptive strategies mediate this relationship. Objective: This study sought to investigate the effects of childhood maltreatment types on adolescent internalizing problems and to explore whether the overall and specific types of maladaptive strategies mediate these associations. Methods: Using a cross-sectional design, adolescents (N = 7071, Mage = 14.05 years, SDage = 1.54) completed online questionnaires assessing childhood maltreatment, maladaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategies (including rumination, catastrophizing, self-blame, and other-blame), anxiety, and depression. The hypothesized mediating effects were tested using the Lavaan package in R software (4.1.2). Results: Different maltreatment types had varying effects on adolescent internalizing problems. Emotional neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse significantly affected anxiety and depression, whereas physical neglect and physical abuse did not. Other than physical neglect and physical abuse, overall maladaptive strategies mediated the relationship between the other three types of maltreatment (emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and sexual abuse) and internalizing problems (anxiety and depression). For specific maladaptive strategies, rumination mediated the effects of physical abuse, emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and sexual abuse on internalizing problems (anxiety and depression). In contrast, catastrophizing mediated the relationship between physical neglect, emotional abuse, emotional neglect, sexual abuse and internalizing problems (anxiety and depression). Conclusions: These results suggest that the effects of maltreatment types on internalizing problems are different and that maladaptive strategies, particularly rumination and catastrophizing, are important mechanisms through which childhood maltreatment affects internalizing problems. This is a reminder that mental health workers need to consider the different effects of maltreatment types when intervening and recognize the importance of prioritizing interventions for rumination and catastrophizing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106796
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume152
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

Keywords

  • Adolescent
  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Internalizing problems
  • Maladaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategies

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