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J Affect Disord. 2006 Jul;93(1-3):71-8. Epub 2006 Mar 20.

Parental verbal abuse and the mediating role of self-criticism in adult internalizing disorders.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Florida State University, United States. sachs@psy.fsu.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Researchers (e.g., [Gibb, B.E., 2002. Childhood maltreatment and negative cognitive styles. A quantitative and qualitative review. Clinical Psychology Review, 22 (2), 223-246]; [Rose, D.T., Abramson, L.Y., 1992. Developmental predictors of depressive cognitive styles: developmental perspectives on depression. In Cicchetti, D., Toth, S.L. (Eds.), Developmental Perspectives on Depression. Rochester symposium on developmental psychopathology, vol. 4, pp. 323-349]) have proposed that when childhood abuse is verbal (rather than sexual or physical), the child is more likely to develop a negative self-schema because the negative self-cognitions are directly supplied to the child by the abuser (e.g., "you are stupid").

METHODS:

In a test of this theory in adult participants, and drawing on the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) (N=5877), we investigate the mediating role of current levels of self-criticism on the relationship between retrospective reports of parental verbal abuse, as well as sexual and physical abuse, and adult internalizing symptoms.

RESULTS:

We found self-criticism, but not dependency traits, to fully mediate the relationship between childhood verbal abuse perpetrated by parents and internalizing (depression, anxiety) symptoms. On the other hand, self-criticism was only a partial mediator of the relationship between the other types of abuse and internalizing symptoms.

LIMITATIONS:

The NCS data is cross-sectional, which limits any firm conclusions regarding causality. While these results are suggestive that self-criticism is a mediator of the relationship between abuse and internalizing symptoms, longitudinal data are necessary to help rule out alternative explanations.

CONCLUSIONS:

Results of this study suggest that childhood abuse experiences, and in particular verbal abuse, may confer risk for internalizing disorders in part because verbal abuse influences the development of a self-critical style.

PMID:
16546265
DOI:
10.1016/j.jad.2006.02.014
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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