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JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Aug 1;167(8):769-75. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.192.

Emotional, behavioral, and developmental features indicative of neglect or emotional abuse in preschool children: a systematic review.

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1
Safeguarding Children Service, Public Health Wales, National Health Service Trust, Cardiff, UK. aideen.naughton2@wales.nhs.uk

Abstract

IMPORTANCE:

Early intervention for neglect or emotional abuse in preschoolers may mitigate lifelong consequences, yet practitioners lack confidence in recognizing these children.

OBJECTIVE:

To define the emotional, behavioral, and developmental features of neglect or emotional abuse in preschoolers.

EVIDENCE REVIEW:

A literature search of 18 databases, 6 websites, and supplementary searching performed from January 1, 1960, to February 1, 2011, identified 22‚ÄČ669 abstracts. Standardized critical appraisal of 164 articles was conducted by 2 independent, trained reviewers. Inclusion criteria were children aged 0 to 6 years with confirmed neglect or emotional abuse who had emotional, behavioral, and developmental features recorded or for whom the carer-child interaction was documented.

FINDINGS:

Twenty-eight case-control (matched for socioeconomic, educational level, and ethnicity), 1 cross-sectional, and 13 cohort studies were included. Key features in the child included the following: aggression (11 studies) exhibited as angry, disruptive behavior, conduct problems, oppositional behavior, and low ego control; withdrawal or passivity (12 studies), including negative self-esteem, anxious or avoidant behavior, poor emotional knowledge, and difficulties in interpreting emotional expressions in others; developmental delay (17 studies), particularly delayed language, cognitive function, and overall development quotient; poor peer interaction (5 studies), showing poor social interactions, unlikely to act to relieve distress in others; and transition (6 studies) from ambivalent to avoidant insecure attachment pattern and from passive to increasingly aggressive behavior and negative self-representation. Emotional knowledge, cognitive function, and language deteriorate without intervention. Poor sensitivity, hostility, criticism, or disinterest characterize maternal-child interactions.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:

Preschool children who have been neglected or emotionally abused exhibit a range of serious emotional and behavioral difficulties and adverse mother-child interactions that indicate that these children require prompt evaluation and interventions.

PMID:
23754198
DOI:
10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.192
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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