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Child maltreatment and cognitive and academic functioning in two generations

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect Volume: 115 Dated: 2021
Date Published

This study examined whether childhood maltreatment predicts cognitive and academic functioning and whether these relationships are explained by other factors (parent cognitive and academic functioning, family social class, or parent maltreatment).


Data for the current study were from a longitudinal study of previously maltreated children, matched controls, and a subset of their offspring (697 parent-offspring dyads) interviewed in 2009−2010. Cognitive and academic functioning were assessed in both parents and offspring with the same measures. Maltreatment was determined through official records. Hierarchical linear regressions were conducted to examine predictors of offspring cognitive and academic functioning. The study found that childhood maltreatment was associated with poorer cognitive functioning and worse academic performance in both generations. Controlling for age, sex, race, and whether the parent had more than one child in the study, offspring maltreatment predicted offspring cognitive functioning when it was the only predictor in the model. In a final model with all variables, only parent cognitive functioning predicted offspring cognitive functioning and parent academic functioning and parent history of maltreatment predicted offspring academic functioning. These results challenge assumptions that childhood maltreatment directly causes deficits in cognitive and academic functioning. Policymakers and practitioners may need to rethink the design of interventions to improve the cognitive and academic functioning of maltreated children. (Publisher Abstract)


Date Published: January 1, 2021