Illogical thinking and thought disorder in maltreated children

Sheree L. Toth, Erin Pickreign Stronach, Fred A. Rogosch, Rochelle Caplan, Dante Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine illogical thinking in children from low-income families with and without histories of child maltreatment. Method: Maltreated (n = 91) and nonmaltreated (n = 43) school-age children individually participated in a story game designed to elicit speech samples. Children were instructed to listen to two recorded stories and prompted to retell the story; they then were asked to create their own story from possible topics. Child behavior ratings on the Child Behavior Checklist were completed by research assistants following 35 hours of observation. Results: Maltreated children exhibited more illogical thinking than did nonmaltreated children, and the level of illogical thinking in maltreated children was in the clinically pathological range. The occurrence of multiple subtypes of maltreatment and the chronicity of the maltreatment also were associated with illogical thinking. Dissociation did not differ between groups, although it was related to illogical thinking. Conclusion: The ability to formulate ideas and communicate them logically is compromised in children who have been maltreated. These results extend prior research on selective attentional processes and negativity biases in maltreated children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-668
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by funding from the Spunk Fund Inc. for the conduct of this research.


  • child abuse
  • child maltreatment
  • neglect
  • thought disorder


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