The impact of childhood psychological maltreatment on mental health outcomes in adulthood: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Zhuoni Xiao*, Mina Murat Baldwin, Siu Ching Wong, Ingrid Obsuth, Franziska Meinck, Aja Louise Murray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Childhood emotional abuse and emotional neglect are the least well-studied forms of childhood maltreatment due to challenges in their definition and in detection. However, the available evidence suggests associations with multiple adulthood mental health problems in clinical and non-clinical populations. This systematic review and meta-analysis (PROSPERO registration number CRD42020197833) explored the associations between childhood emotional abuse and neglect and a range of adulthood mental health problems based on systematic searches of eight databases. In total, 79 English and 11 Chinese studies met our inclusion criteria. Results suggested that childhood emotional abuse and neglect had positive associations with various adulthood mental health problems (d = 0.02-1.84), including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal ideation or attempts, personality disorders, eating disorders and other psychological symptoms in the general population and across different geographical regions. Further, findings suggested that compared with the non-clinical population, individuals in clinical populations were more likely to have experienced emotional abuse and neglect during childhood. The review highlights the need for more research on emotional abuse and emotional neglect. Further, future research should include more populations from non-western countries and non-college populations. They further underline the importance of addressing issues related to childhood emotional abuse/neglect experiences in the prevention and treatment of mental health issues in adulthood.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTrauma, Violence and Abuse
Early online date19 Sept 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Sept 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • childhood psychological maltreatment
  • childhood emotional abuse
  • childhood emotional neglect
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • substance abuse
  • suicidal ideation
  • meta-analysis


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