A neuropsychological study of primary school-aged children with a history of maltreatment

Schirmer, Helen (2010) A neuropsychological study of primary school-aged children with a history of maltreatment. Other Degree thesis, Victoria University.


This study examined the cognitive functioning of a group of primary school-aged children with a history of maltreatment. Neuroimaging research has documented changes in the structure and function of the developing brain in children exposed to early trauma. There is also some evidence that these neural changes are reflected in changes to learning capacity, particularly observed in lower scores on standard intelligence tests and poor educational outcomes. The current study utilized a neuropsychological framework to assess a range of cognitive domains including intelligence, verbal and visual-motor skills, attention, executive functioning and memory. Twenty-eight children with a history of maltreatment were recruited through Take Two therapeutic service and Berry Street Home Based Care Services in Victoria, Australia, and compared to a control group of 28 children with no maltreatment history. Ages ranged between 6 and 11 years, and the groups were matched for gender and socio-economic status. Groups were compared on variables measuring general intelligence, verbal and perceptual reasoning, attentional and executive capacities, working memory, and verbal and non-verbal recall. Consistent with hypotheses, the study found significantly reduced functioning in the maltreated group in overall intelligence and verbal comprehension. A reduction in perceptual reasoning abilities was also found, contrary to predictions. Maltreated subjects performed more poorly on a task involving divided attention, and were rated on showing a greater level of executive dysfunction in everyday tasks. Finally, reduced verbal working memory and verbal immediate recall was observed in the maltreated groups. These findings may have significant implications for education, home adjustment and therapeutic strategies with maltreated children.

Additional Information

Doctor of Psychology (Clinical Neuropsychology)

Item type Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/16000
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1702 Cognitive Science
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Keywords children, primary school-aged children, maltreatment of children, maltreatment, trauma, childhood development, child psychology, neuropsychology, cognitive analysis, cognitive functioning, cognitive ability, brain development
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