Personality functioning and the pathogenic effect of childhood maltreatment in a high-risk sample

Delfine d'Huart*, Joost Hutsebaut, Süheyla Seker, Marc Schmid, Klaus Schmeck, David Bürgin, Cyril Boonmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: 

While the psychopathological sequalae of childhood maltreatment are widely acknowledged, less is known about the underlying pathways by which childhood maltreatment might lead to an increased risk for mental health problems. Recent studies indicated that impaired personality functioning might mediate this relationship. The aim of the present paper was to extend the current literature by investigating the mediating effect of impaired personality functioning between different types of childhood maltreatment and self-reported mental health problems in a high-risk sample.

Methods: 

Overall, 173 young adults (mean age = of 26.61 years; SD = 3.27) with a history of residential child welfare and juvenile justice placements in Switzerland were included in the current study. The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ-SF), Semi-structured Interview for Personality Functioning DSM-5 (STiP-5.1) and the self-report questionnaires of the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment scales (ASEBA) were used. Mediation analyses were conducted through structural equation modeling.

Results: 

Overall, 76.3% (N = 132) participants indicated at least one type of childhood maltreatment, with emotional neglect being most commonly reported (60.7%). A total of 30.6% (N = 53) participants self-reported mental health problems. Emotional abuse (r = 0.34; p < .001) and neglect (r = 0.28; p < .001) were found to be most strongly associated with mental health problems. In addition, impaired personality functioning was fond to be a significant mediator for overall childhood maltreatment (β = 0.089; p = 0.008) and emotional neglect (β = 0.077; p = 0.016). Finally, impaired self-functioning was found to be a significant mediator when both self-functioning and interpersonal functioning were included as potential mediators in the relationship between overall childhood maltreatment (β1 = 0.177, p1 = 0.007) and emotional neglect (β1 = 0.173, p1 = 0.003).

Conclusion: 

Emotional neglect may be particularly important in the context of childhood maltreatment, personality functioning, and mental health problems and, therefore, should not be overlooked next to the more "obvious" forms of childhood maltreatment. Combining interventions designed for personality functioning with trauma-informed practices in standard mental health services might counteract the psychopathological outcomes of maltreated children and adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number95
Number of pages13
JournalChild and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • ADULT DEPRESSION
  • ATTACHMENT
  • Childhood maltreatment
  • DISORDER
  • EMOTIONAL ABUSE
  • Emotional neglect
  • MEDIATING ROLE
  • Mediation analysis
  • Mental health problems
  • PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
  • Personality functioning
  • SEXUAL-ABUSE
  • STRESS
  • SYMPTOMS
  • Self-functioning
  • TRAUMA

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