Child Maltreatment, Behavior Problems, And Neurocognition: Main And Mediation Effects

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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child maltreatment
Public Health Education and Promotion
Social Psychology
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Cui, Naixue
Cui, Naixue

Child maltreatment, especially physical abuse, is highly prevalent in Mainland China and has been associated with childhood behavior problems. Nevertheless, pooled relationships between three types of child maltreatment (physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect) and childhood behavior problems in Chinese studies have not been examined using a meta-analytic approach. The neurocognitive underpinnings of these relationships remain poorly understood. Also, the possible link that neurocognitive dysfunction and BP may predispose children to high risk of physical abuse is under-investigated. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the interrelations among child maltreatment, childhood behavior problems, and neurocognition. Chapter 2 is a meta-analysis that examined the pooled effect sizes of relationships between the three types of child maltreatment and behavior problems in Mainland China. Built on findings from the meta-analysis, Chapter 3 tested the mediating effect of neurocognition, measured by P300 event-related potential in the relationship between physical abuse and externalizing behaviors. As a different line of inquiry, Chapter 4 tested the risk effects of neurocognition measured by IQ and behavior problems on the likelihood of physical abuse. Chapters 3 and 4 applied secondary analysis of existing data collected from the China Jintan Child Cohort Study. The meta-analysis in Chapter 2 found that physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect related to a spectrum of behavior problems with approximately equal small-to-moderate effect sizes. Findings in Chapter 3 further indicated that P300 amplitude to novel stimuli mediated the relationship between maternal physical abuse and self-report externalizing behaviors. The sub-study in Chapter 4 found that child externalizing behaviors reported by mother and teacher increased the risks of physical abuse, whereas child-report externalizing behavior or mother-report internalizing behaviors related to decreased risks of physical abuse. This body of work provides a deeper understanding of the complex interrelations among child maltreatment, behavior problems, and neurocognition. Findings can inform tailored interventions to prevent child maltreatment and promote child behavioral and neurocognitive development. They also signify the urgency to build an effective child-protection system in Mainland China.

Jianghong A. Liu
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