Abstract: Effects of Exposure to Subtypes of Mid-Adolescent Neglect and Abuse on Behavioral Problems in Emerging Adulthood (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Effects of Exposure to Subtypes of Mid-Adolescent Neglect and Abuse on Behavioral Problems in Emerging Adulthood

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Julia Kobulsky, PhD, Assistant Professor, Temple University, PA
Dalhee Yoon, PhD, Assistant Professor, Binghamton University-State University of New York, Binghamton, NY
Miguel Villodas, PhD, Assistant Professor, San Diego State University, CA
Howard Dubowitz, MD, Professor, University of Maryland at Baltimore, MD
A growing body of research shows that child neglect (not meeting children’s needs due to lack of care) predicts adverse outcomes across domains, and is as pernicious as abuse. However, few studies conceptualize neglect in a developmentally sensitive manner, reflecting its contingency on youths’ evolving needs. Moreover, there is little research considering the effects of neglect subtypes in mid-adolescence. This study aims to remedy this gap in the literature, utilizing newfound knowledge on the dimensionality of a developmentally sensitive, mid-adolescent neglect measure. Specifically, it seeks to illuminate the effects of neglect subtypes during mid-adolescence on later internalizing and externalizing problems in emerging adulthood.

This study draws from a sample of 1,018 adolescents (52% female; 55% Black and 24% White) participating in the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect, a 5-region cohort study of at-risk youth. Using the 43-item Mid-adolescent Neglect Scale, 5 subtypes of neglect (i.e., monitoring, basic needs, permissiveness, exposure, and support) were specified as latent variables and measured at age 16. Each type of child abuse was assessed at age 16 using the self-reports of mid—adolescent exposure: frequency of emotional and physical abuse, and dichotomized sexual abuse. Internalizing and externalizing problems were assessed at age 18 using the Youth Self-Report (YSR). Adolescents’ gender, race, previous internalizing and externalizing problems using the YSR at 12 years were used as control variables.

Results revealed that the measurement model specifying the 5 latent mid-adolescent neglect factors had adequate fit: RMSEA = .051 (90% CI: .049, .054), CFI = .958, SRMR = .056. The full structural model also had adequate fit: RMSEA = .041 (90% CI: .040, .043), CFI = .960, SRMR = .052. Support neglect predicted internalizing problems at 18 (β = .264, p= .030), but not externalizing problems (β = .133, p= .249). None of the other neglect types in mid-adolescence predicted internalizing and externalizing problems. Emotional abuse during mid-adolescence predicted internalizing problems (β = .130, p= .003) and externalizing problems (β = .112, p= .008).

Findings suggest that the salient role of support neglect and emotional abuse experienced during mid-adolescence on later young adult functioning. Further research is needed to understand specific subtypes of neglect in prediction of a fuller ranged of functioning domains, throughout development. These findings underscore the importance of specific types of neglect and abuse assessment; social work practitioners need training on that nature of neglect and its consequences.