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Emotional Wellbeing

The following is a summary of the systematic review findings up to the date of our most recent literature search. If you have a specific clinical case, we strongly recommend you read all of the relevant references as cited and look for additional material published outside our search dates.


14 studies (16 publications) addressed emotional well-being 1-16 (overlapping data in 3&4 and 2&13)



  • Three studies assessed self-esteem using the self-esteem inventory 9,11 and the California Q sort 7
  • The neglected or emotionally abused children had lower self-esteem than controls 7,9,11 and the more severe the neglect, the lower their self-esteem 11

Perception of control 

  • One study addressed the perception of control using Connell’s mutli-dimensional measure of children’s perceptions of control 1 and noted that the neglected children perceived that others were controlling the events that happened to them in life, which increased their internalising symptoms


  • Five studies used the Child Depression Inventory 6,9,11,14,15 and one 8 used the Schedule for Affective disorders and Schizophrenia. One used the Child Suicide Potential Scales 3
  • Depression was associated with physical neglect 6,9,11,15
  • The neglected children with an insecure attachment to their mother showed more depressive symptoms 14.Likewise, children with a negative maternal schema had higher depression scores 15
  • Emotional maltreatment is a significant influence on depressive symptoms 8,9
  • One study of children aged 6-12 years showed no difference in suicide potential between neglected children and controls 3

 Emotional regulation and understanding

  • 5 articles addressed emotional regulation and understanding 2,5,10,12,13
  • 5 different tools were used, the most frequent of which was the Emotion Regulation Checklist 2,10,12,13
  • Two studies found no difference in emotional regulation between the neglected children and controls 10,12, however one study noted that neglected children used less effective coping strategies and were more likely to inhibit the expression of negative emotions than controls 13
  • Those experiencing emotional maltreatment showed greater emotional dysregulation than other forms of abuse and controls 10
  • The neglected children showed less emotional understanding, in particular relating to negative emotions 2,5,13


  • Self-schema (such that information related to the self is better remembered than that which is not related to the self) was assessed with the children’s self-schema task 16
  • On memory testing, there was no difference in false recall between neglected children and controls, although all children had low recall. However, the neglected children had more negative false recalls and less positive false recalls than other children. This is consistent with the neglected children having low self-esteem 16
  • Another study, using the Child Suicide Potential Scale, demonstrated that neglected children had equivalent or slightly worse ego defenses (denial, rejection, projection) than controls 4


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  1. Bolger KE, Patterson CJ. Pathways from child maltreatment to internalizing problems: perceptions of control as mediators and moderators. Developmental Psychopathology. 2001;13(4):913-40 [Pubmed]

  2. Edwards A, Shipman K, Brown A. The socialization of emotional understanding: a comparison of neglectful and nonneglectful mothers and their children. Child Maltreatment. 2005;10(3):293-304 [Pubmed]

  3. Finzi R, Har-Even D, Shnit D, Weizman A. Psychosocial characterization of physically abused children from low socioeconomic households in comparison to neglected and nonmaltreated children. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 2002;11(4):441-453 [Abstract available from Springer Link]

  4. Finzi R, Har-Even D, Weizman A. Comparison of ego defenses among physically abused children, neglected, and non-maltreated children. Comprehensive Psychiatry. 2003;44(5):388-95 [Pubmed]

  5. Fishbein D, Warner T, Krebs C, Trevarthen N, Flannery B, Hammond J. Differential relationships between personal and community stressors and children's neurocognitive functioning. Child Maltreatment. 2009;14(4):299-315 [Pubmed]

  6. Kantor GK, Holt MK, Mebert CJ, Straus MA, Drach KM, Ricci LR, MacAllum CA, Brown W. Development and preliminary psychometric properties of the multidimensional neglectful behavior scale-child report. Child Maltreatment. 2004;9(4):409-28 [Pubmed]

  7. Kaufman J, Cicchetti D. Effects of maltreatment on school-age children's socioemotional development: Assessments in a day-camp setting. Developmental Psychology. 1989;25(4):516-524 [Abstract available from APAPsychNET]

  8. Kaufman J, Jones B, Stieglitz E, Vitulano L, Mannarino AP. The use of multiple informants to assess children's maltreatment experiences. Journal of Family Violence. 1994;9(3):227-248 [Abstract available from Springer Link]

  9. Kim J, Cicchetti D. Longitudinal trajectories of self-system processes and depressive symptoms among maltreated and nonmaltreated children. Child Development. 2006;77(3):624-39 [Pubmed]

  10. Kim J, Cicchetti D. Longitudinal pathways linking child maltreatment, emotion regulation, peer relations, and psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry. 2010;51(6):706-16 [Pubmed]

  11. Lynch M, Cicchetti D. An ecological-transactional analysis of children and contexts: the longitudinal interplay among child maltreatment, community violence, and children's symptomatology. Development & Psychopathology. 1998;10(2):235-57 [Pubmed]

  12. Shields A, Cicchetti D. Reactive aggression among maltreated children: the contributions of attention and emotion dysregulation. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology. 1998;27(4):381-95 [Pubmed]

  13. Shipman K, Edwards A, Brown A, Swisher L, Jennings E. Managing emotion in a maltreating context: a pilot study examining child neglect. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2005;29(9):1015-29 [Pubmed]

  14. Toth SL, Cicchetti D. Patterns of relatedness, depressive symptomatology, and perceived competence in maltreated children. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology. 1996;64(1):32-41 [Pubmed]

  15. Valentino K, Cicchetti D, Rogosch FA, Toth SL. Memory, maternal representations, and internalizing symptomatology among abused, neglected, and nonmaltreated children. Child Development. 2008;79(3):705-719 [Pubmed]

  16. Valentino K, Cicchetti D, Rogosch FA, Toth SL. True and false recall and dissociation among maltreated children: the role of self-schema. Development & Psychopathology. 2008;20(1):213-32 [Pubmed]


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