Methods: Data from the baseline and wave 2 interview of the 2010 National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW II) were used. The final analytic sample included children over the age of 17 months left with biological parents following an initial maltreatment investigation (n= 1459). Changes to child behavior was captured using the caregiver reported Child Behavioral Checklist (CBCL). The CBCL measures domains of both internalizing behaviors, such as anxiety and depression, and externalizing behaviors, such as delinquent and aggressive acts. Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scale (CTSPC) was used to measure psychological aggression, physical assault, sexual assault, and neglectful acts both at baseline and at wave 2. Ordinary Least Squares regression models with lagged dependent variables (i.e. child behavior) were used to measure the change in behaviors between baseline and time 2. New forms of child abuse and neglect were entered into the regression as dummy variables; child age, race, sex, and family poverty, parent’s age, and mental and physical health were entered as confounders.
Results: It was found that even while controlling for demographic details of the child and parent, previous forms of abuse and neglect, new psychologically aggressive acts (b=3.40, p<.01) and neglect (b=1.75, p<.05) were significantly associated with increased internalizing behavioral problems within a year. However, only psychological aggression was found to be significantly associated (b=3.62, p<.01) with increases in externalizing behavioral problems within a year.
Conclusions and Implications: When explanations are sought for changes in a child’s behavior, usually it is thought that physical and sexual abuse would be the determining variables. We found this not to be true. After controlling for confounding variables, psychological aggression had a significant association with both internalized and externalized mental health outcomes. Although psychological aggression is only part of the story of child maltreatment, paying greater attention to this may aid intervention efforts. While, prevention efforts might include policy changes to give more serious weight to psychological aggression.