Aggressive behavior in abused children

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Adolescent; Aggression; Child; Child Abuse; Child Abuse, Sexual; Child Behavior Disorders; Female; Humans; Intelligence; Intelligence Tests; Male; Questionnaires; Referral and Consultation; Residential Treatment; Retrospective Studies; Severity of Illness Index; Social Behavior Disorders; Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic


Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychology


Our objective was to investigate the relationship between a lifetime history of traumatic stress, defined as physical and/or sexual abuse and aggression and psychosocial functioning in a sample of clinically referred and nonclinically referred children and adolescents. This is a retrospective case comparison study. Three groups of children were identified, assessed, matched for age, and partially matched for gender. Children clinically referred to residential treatment with a history of abuse (N = 29) were compared with children clinically referred to residential treatment without a history of abuse (N = 29), and a nonclinical group of children residing in the community (N = 29). Variables investigating specific types of aggression, IQ, and psychopathology were assessed across the three groups. Clinically referred children scored worse on all measures compared with nonclinical community children. Clinically referred abused children scored higher on measures of aggression and significantly higher on measures of reactive aggression and verbal aggression than clinically referred nonabused children. Clinically referred abused children had significantly lower verbal IQ scores than clinically referred nonabused children, but no difference in psychopathology. Results support the importance of assessing specific types of aggression in samples of traumatized youths. Verbal information processing may be especially vulnerable in abused children and adolescents and enhance vulnerability to aggressive responding.


Citation: Connor, D. F., Doerfler, L. A., Volungis, A. M., Steingard, R. J., & Melloni, R. H. (2003), Aggressive Behavior in Abused Children. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1008: 79–90. doi: 10.1196/annals.1301.009

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Link to article in PubMed

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