Profiles of Maltreatment in the Child Welfare System: Predicting Mental Health Outcomes and Examining Age as a Moderator

Brynn Huguenel, Scott Leon, Lauren A Hindt, Nathan Lutz, Jennifer Osborne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This longitudinal study explored the unique profiles of maltreatment among youth in the child welfare system and examined their relation to mental health outcomes over time. We additionally examined the moderating role of age. Participants included 316 youth in the foster care system (age range: 6-13 years). Data were collected through the Department of Children and Family Services upon youths' entry into foster care, then quarterly for the duration of care. A latent profile analysis identified five profiles of maltreatment, categorized as primary neglect (PN), neglect and physical abuse (PA), complex trauma, complex trauma with severe sexual abuse (SA), and neglect with SA. A hierarchical general linear model applied to the data revealed that all four classes predicted higher internalizing symptom trajectories compared with the PN reference class, event rate ratios (eRRs) = 1.19-1.37, but none of these associations were significantly moderated by age. Membership in the two classes categorized by complex trauma predicted higher externalizing behavior trajectories as compared to the PN reference class, eRRs = 1.11-1.13. The relation between membership in the neglect with SA class and externalizing behaviors was moderated by age, eRR = 0.83. Finally, membership in all four classes predicted higher posttraumatic stress symptoms as compared with the reference group, eRRs = 1.84-2.45, and with all associations moderated by age, eRRs = 0.51-0.53. These findings provide insight into the maltreatment experiences of youth in the child welfare system and have important implications for treatment needs.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 6 2021
Externally publishedYes

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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