Not surprisingly, the abused children all exhibited signs of emotional and behavioural problems, including depression and anxiety, whereas the unharmed children did not. In fact, all the abused children were undergoing therapy for their problems. However, after controlling for socioeconomic status and IQ, there was no difference between the groups in terms of their learning and memory performance (as measured by TOMAL, see http://tinyurl.com/dvmoe).
“…having children under therapeutic management may reduce the deleterious effects of sexual abuse on memory and intellectual functioning”, the researchers concluded. They also noted that work in this area is impeded by the lack of a standardised measure of the severity of child sexual abuse – perhaps it is differences in severity of abuse that explains the inconsistent findings between studies. They also highlighted their lack of brain imaging data (previous studies have reported structural brain abnormalities in abused children) and the fact they didn’t investigate the children’s ability to concentrate on the task at hand, or to switch easily between tasks (i.e. executive functioning).
Porter, C., Lawson, J.S. & Bigler, E.D. (2005). Neurobehavioural sequelae of child sexual abuse. Child Neuropsychology, 11, 203-220.
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