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Exploration and Validation of Clusters of Physically Abused Children

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal Volume: 32 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2008 Pages: 577-588
Caryn Sabourin Ward; Mary E. Haskett
Date Published
May 2008
12 pages
This study examined heterogeneity in social adjustment of physically abused children.
The study found that three subgroups of physically abused children emerged from the cluster analysis; clusters were labeled Socially Well Adjusted, Hanging in There, and Social Difficulties. Examination of cluster differences on risk and protective factors provided substantial evidence in support of the external validity of the 3-cluster solution. Specifically, clusters differed significantly in attributions of peer intent and in parenting (i.e., sensitivity and harshness of parenting). Clusters also differed in the ways in which they were similar to, or different from, the comparison group of nonabused children. The results support the contention that there are clinically relevant subgroups of physically abused children with potentially unique treatment needs. Findings also point to the relevance of social information processing operations and parenting context in understanding diversity among physically abused children. Pending replication, the findings provide support for the importance of considering unique treatment of needs among physically abused children, as a singular approach to intervention is said to be unlikely to be effective for these children. Findings also point to the importance of promoting positive parenting practices in addition to reducing harsh discipline of physically abusive parents. Data were derived from 98 physically abused children from the southeastern United States, aged 5 to 10, who were clustered on the basis of social adjustment, as measured by observed behavior with peers on the school playground and by teacher reports of social behavior. Seventy-seven matched nonabused children served as a comparison sample. Clusters were validated on the basis of observed parental sensitivity, parents’ self-reported disciplinary tactics, and children's social information processing operations. Tables, references