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The link between childhood abuse and mental illness is explored.
—not those identified as abuse victims through official records.
Conclusion: Objective and Subjective Reports of Childhood Abuse
In conclusion, it appears those who “construe their childhood experiences as maltreatment,” regardless of a documented history, have a high risk for mental illness.
We need to investigate why certain individuals develop a subjective appraisal of abuse when there is no objective evidence for maltreatment. Some areas of study include suggestibility, as well as perception and memory biases related to
factors or previous mental illness.
And we need to understand why some abused children perceive and remember their experiences as maltreatment and others do not. Potentially relevant factors include age at abuse, the severity of the maltreatment, the intensity of suffering experienced at the time, environmental factors (e.
., social care and support), and later hardships experienced prior to the development of the mental illness.
Last, it is important we do not use the data to reach the wrong conclusions, such as assuming that abusing children is not so bad if they are not terribly affected by it subjectively (e.g., do not develop a severe mental illness), years later. As the authors note, these findings “do not diminish the significance of maltreatment in the lives of children. Maltreatment is a fundamental breach in the human rights of children and it is a moral duty to protect them from abuse and neglect.”
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