College of Psychology: Faculty Articles


Maltreatment of handicapped children. A critical review

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Journal of Family Violence






Despite increased interest in child abuse and neglect in the past decade, little research attention has been focused on maltreatment in handicapped populations. This is surprising given that many handicapped children display characteristics (e.g., chronic and pervasive behavioral disturbances, decreased social initiations with caregivers) that are associated with high risk for assault and neglect in nonhandicapped children. Numerous investigations have found an overrepresentation of handicapped children in maltreated samples, and results of more recent efforts reveal a high incidence of abuse and neglect in handicapped populations. Although these data underscore the high risk for maltreatment in handicapped children, a number of important issues warrant further empirical examination. Moreover, generalizations and interpretations of findings from previous research have been obfuscated by methodological shortcomings. The present paper reviews the literature concerning abuse and neglect of handicapped children. Research strategies and issues are delineated and current problems in this field are discussed. Suggestions for directions future research might take are offered.

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