Cognitive and behavioral risk factors for child physical abuse among Chinese children: A multiple-informant study

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Background: It has been well established that child physical abuse is a risk factor for cognitive deficits and behavioral problems. However, the possible link between cognitive deficits and behavioral problems placing children at a higher risk of physical abuse has been overlooked. Using a prospective design, the present study aims to examine whether previously measured cognition indicated by intelligence quotient (IQ), including performance IQ (PIQ) and verbal IQ (VIQ), and behavioral problems reported by multiple informants (i.e. mothers, teachers, and children) predict later child physical abuse (which may include minor and severe forms of abuse inflicted separately by mothers and fathers) in Chinese children. Methods: A school-based survey was conducted to collect data from 265 Chinese children (52.8 % boys, mean age 13.71 ± 0.60 years) in the Wave II of China Jintan Cohort study. When they were in the last year of elementary school, children completed the Chinese version of the Wechsler intelligence scale for children-revised that measured VIQ and PIQ during 2010-2012 when their behaviors were self-assessed. Mothers and teachers of these children used the Chinese versions of the youth self report, the child behavior checklist and the teacher report form, respectively, to assess the children's behaviors. These children reported minor and severe physical abuse experiences in the previous 12 months from mothers and fathers separately using the Chinese version of parent-child conflict tactics scale in 2013 when children were in grades 7 and 8 of middle school. Results: The present study found that after controlling for the sociodemographic and other cognitive and/or behavior variables, high scores of child externalizing behavior rated by their mothers or teachers were associated with increased risks of experiencing maternal and paternal severe physical abuse, while a high score of self-reported externalizing behavior was associated with a decreased risk of paternal severe physical abuse. A high score of mother-rated internalizing behavior was associated with a decreased risk of maternal severe physical abuse. VIQ was associated with maternal minor physical abuse with small effect size. PIQ was not associated with any forms of physical abuse after adjusting for child behavior and sociodemographic variables. Conclusions: In this community sample of Chinese children, externalizing behavior perceived by mothers and teachers is linked to children being at risk for physical abuse, while internalizing behavior perceived by mothers is associated with a decreased risk of maternal physical abuse. Findings suggest that educating parents and teachers to appropriately perceive children's externalizing behavior may help prevent the occurrence of physical abuse.




Cui, N., & Liu, J. (2016). Cognitive and behavioral risk factors for child physical abuse among Chinese children: A multiple-informant study. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 10(1).

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