Maltreatment experiences are complex, and it is difficult to characterize the heterogeneity in types of maltreatment. Subtypes, such as emotional maltreatment, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect commonly co-occur and may persist across development. Therefore, treating individual maltreatment subtypes as independently occurring is not representative of the nature of maltreatment as it occurs in children's lives. Latent class analysis (LCA) is employed herein to identify subgroups of maltreated children based on commonalities in maltreatment subtype and chronicity. In a sample of 674 low-income urban children, 51.6% of whom experienced officially documented maltreatment, our analyses identified four classes of children, with three distinct classes based on maltreatment subtypes and chronicity, and one group of children who did not experience maltreatment. The largest class of maltreated children identified was the chronic, multi-subtype maltreatment class (57% of maltreated children); a second class was characterized by only neglect in a single developmental period (31% of maltreated children), and the smallest class was characterized by a single subtype of maltreatment (emotional maltreatment, physical, or sexual abuse) occurring in a single developmental period (12% of maltreated children). Characterization of these groups confirms the overlapping nature of maltreatment subtypes. There were notable differences between latent classes on child behavioral and socio-emotional outcomes measured by child self-report and camp counselors report during a one-week summer camp. The largest differences were between the non-maltreated class and the chronic maltreatment class. Children who experienced chronic, multi-subtype maltreatment showed higher levels of externalizing behavior, emotion dysregulation, depression, and anxiety.
- Child maltreatment
- Latent class analysis