A Contextually Relevant Assessment of the Impact of Child Maltreatment on the Social Competencies of Low-Income Urban Children

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Abstract

Objective: A developmental-ecological model was used to explore the psychological adjustment and peer social competencies of maltreated preschool children. Method: Enhanced research methods were used that included verification of maltreatment status, multiple-variable matching of comparison children, and contextually relevant assessment. One hundred eight Head Start children, of whom 54 were maltreated, participated. Assessment of social functioning included measurement of peer play interactions, global social skills, peer sociometrics, and teacher and parent ratings of behavior problems. Results: Findings indicated that maltreated children were significantly less interactive in peer play and overall exhibited less self-control and interpersonal skill in social interactions than nonmaltreated children. In addition, maltreated children were more likely than their nonmaltreated peers to receive low sociometric ratings and were found by both teachers and parents to display more internalizing behavior problems than comparison children. Conclusions: These findings indicate the importance of using developmentally sensitive research methods to inform contextually relevant interventions.

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