Research-based Recovery Information*
for Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse and Adversity


Most commonly, one form of abuse does NOT occur in isolation from other forms of abuse. Earlier research by Pears, Kim and Fisher (2008) [LINK] estimate that up to 90% of child welfare system cases involve multiple types of maltreatment. However, emotional and psychological abuse represent the most common form of abuse, and are thought to occur in common with all other forms (Hibbard et al 2012 [LINK]). More detailed incidence figures are given on the following pages for the other types of abuse:

Marije Stoltenborgh of Leiden University, Netherlands, has produced another meta-analysis of published studies, following her earlier meta-analysis of studies of prevalence of childhood sexual abuse, this time looking at the international prevalence of childhood emotional abuse

In the most recent paper, [LINK]  Stoltenborgh and colleagues present the results  of a comprehensive meta-analysis combining prevalence figures of childhood emotional abuse reported in 29 studies, including 46 independent samples with a total of 7,082,279 participants. The overall estimated prevalence was 3/1,000 for studies using informants and 363/1,000 for studies using self-report measures of child emotional abuse. Procedural factors again, as for studies of  CSA seem to exert a greater influence on the prevalence of childhood emotional abuse than sample characteristics and definitional issues, without fully explaining the vast variation of prevalence rates reported in individual studies.

The researchers  conclude that child emotional abuse is a universal problem affecting the lives of millions of children all over the world, which is in sharp contrast with the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Going by self-reported prevalence rates, and as discussed on my website, there are good reasons to rely on these figures, CEM likely occurs at three times the rate of CSA and, as CEM can have effects as severe, if not in some cases more severe, as CSA -- impacts, for individual clients and populations alike, likely to be under-estimated by many clinicians and policy makers and service planners, the lives of survivors of CEM are likely to be significantly poorer in quality and length than need be the case, compared to those without histories of abuse and maltreatment.