Emotional maltreatment in Canada: Prevalence, reporting and child welfare responses

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Child Abuse and Neglect, 35(10): 841-854

Chamberland, Claire
Fallon, Barbara
Black, Tara
Trocmé, Nico

Journal article
Canadian CW research

Objectives: To determine the prevalence and characteristics of reports of emotional maltreatment (EMT) in Canada, as well as changes in these reports between 1998 and 2003. Methods: This study is based on a secondary analysis of data collected in the first and second Canadian Incidence Study. Emotional maltreatment (excluding exposure to intimate partner violence) investigations were categorized into six groups: emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and other maltreatment as the only investigated form of maltreatment, and these same three groups were examined when they co-occurred with another form of maltreatment. Results: Both the rate of emotional-abuse-only investigations and emotional-neglect-only investigations increased almost threefold from 1998 to 2003. Substantiated emotional neglect investigations had the highest rate of transfer to ongoing services. Half of the investigations involving single forms of emotional maltreatment occurred for six months or more. Finally, emotional neglect cases (in single form and when it co-occurs with another form of maltreatment) were more likely to be associated with emotional harm and longer duration of maltreatment. Conclusions: In 2003, EMT represented a significant increasing form of maltreatment and is detected nearly twice as often in situations in which abuse or neglect are also reported. Reports of emotional abuse are two and a half times more frequent than reports of emotional neglect. Nevertheless, lack of emotional engagement may also be difficult to identify, since an omission is more difficult to detect. Reports of EMT often reveal situations of chronic victimization that have been the subject of previous reports and are associated with greater emotional impact.

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