Mechanisms in the Association Between Abuse and Violence: Psychological Sequelae

Lewis (1992) proposed that maltreatment has numerous psychological effects associated with violence such as increasing impulsivity and irritability, engendering hypervigilance and paranoia, diminishing judgment and verbal competence, and curtailing the recognition of pain in the self and others (p. 383). Some believe that a substantial number of perpetrators of violence have diagnosable personality disorders (Kamphuis & Emmelkamp, 2005).

Psychological and psychiatric impacts of abuse have also been studied extensively. Neglect has been associated with borderline personality disorder and paranoid symptoms in adolescence and young adulthood (e.g. Johnson, Smailes, Cohen, Brown, & Bernstein, 2000). In a representative community sample, 80% of abused young adults met criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder (Silverman, Reinherz, & Giaconia 1996). The physically abused female subjects had elevated levels of various clinical symptoms such as somatic complaints, thought problems, attention problems and anxiety. Sexually abused females showed more depressive symptomatology, anxiety, and suicidality than a comparison group. This has also been found in other studies (see the meta-analysis by Paolucci, Genuis, & Violato,

2001). Wolfe et al. (1992) emphasize the distorting effects of abuse on the child’s self concept.

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