Detecting cognitive sequalae of maltreatment



The impact of maltreatment on cognitive and affective development in adolescence remains relatively undocumented. It is, however, a crucial element in identifying the risk factors threatening these young people and the protective measures that need to be put in place to support them.

This research demonstrates the presence of cognitive and affective difficulties associated with maltreatment and the importance of early detection and management.

Caroline Cellard, a researcher at the School of Psychology at Université Laval, conducted a project involving young people aged 12 to 17. The sample consisted of 39 adolescents in the Québec City and Chaudière-Appalaches regions who had experienced physical or psychological maltreatment and a control group of 40 others who, a priori, had not been maltreated. Over the course of two to three meetings, participants were assessed using questionnaires documenting their psycho-affective state and tests to measure cognitive domains such as memory, organization and planning abilities, and information processing speed.

Significant differences were observed between the two groups. The young victims of maltreatment scored lower on average in the cognitive domain tests; they were also more likely to show signs of anxiety, depression or low self-esteem. The questionnaires also showed that they had experienced a greater number of difficult or stressful life events, such as changes in living environment, parental separation or the loss of a loved one.

This research demonstrates the presence of cognitive and affective difficulties associated with maltreatment and the importance of early detection and management. It is important for practitioners to be aware of the possibility of such impacts. Caroline Cellard has had the opportunity to present the preliminary conclusions of her research in the Québec City area and in France.