Background and Purpose: Creating and maintaining supportive relationships is necessary for health and well-being throughout the life course. The necessary skills to develop and foster supportive relationships typically begin to be acquired during childhood (Parke & Ladd, 1992; 1992). Children who are unable to form mutual peer relationships are at risk for a host of difficulties in the relative short-term, including delinquency, mental health problems and premature school exits (Asher, Parkhurst, Hymel, & Williams, 1990; Parker & Asher, 1987). Families provide the primary human ecological context for the development of social skills (Cicchetti, Lynch, Shonk, & Manly, 1992). When family units do not function well, such as is the case in families where children are maltreated, children often have psychological resource and social skill deficits (Prino & Peyrot, 1994). Although several studies have examined the contemporaneous effects (Cicchetti, Toth, & Bush, 1988; Rogosch & Cicchetti, 1994; Wolfe, Wekerle, Reitzel-Jaffe, & Lefebvre, 1998) of child maltreatment, particularly physical, on peer relations, far fewer have examined its long-term effects on social relations in adulthood, apart from romantic relationships. This paper examines the effects of three subtypes of childhood maltreatment (i.e., emotional, moderate physical and severe physical) by parents on psychological resources—personal control, self acceptance, neuroticism and extraversion—and on individuals' perceptions about their current relationships with family and friends.
Methods: The analysis is based on data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) 1995-1996, a nationally representative random-digit-dial sample of non-institutionalized, English-speaking adults who were aged 25-74 at the time of the survey. This study addresses the following specific questions: 1) Does childhood maltreatment influence perceptions about relationships with family and friends? 2) Do the effects of childhood maltreatment on perceptions about social relationships vary with age? Data analyses included descriptive statistics and ordinary least squares regression.
Results: The data suggest that all examined childhood maltreatment subtypes are negatively associated with perceptions about relationships and this association appears to be evident across the age groups studied (25 to 74 years). The data also suggest that childhood maltreatment is negatively associated with personal control, self acceptance and extraversion and positively associated with neuroticism across all age groups in the sample.
Implications: This study's findings underscore the importance of child maltreatment prevention and early intervention. In regard to adult childhood maltreatment survivors who experience social functioning difficulties, the author discusses the findings in terms of their applicability to psychosocial intervention, and present implications for social work practice and research.