Ask Me! Self-reported Features of Adolescents Experiencing Neglect or Emotional Maltreatment: A rapid systematic review – Child: Care, Health and Development


Background: Neglect is often overlooked in adolescence, due in part to assumptions about autonomy and misinterpretation of behaviors being part of normal adolescent development. Emotional maltreatment (abuse or neglect) has a damaging effect throughout the lifespan, but is rarely recognized amongst adolescents. Our review aims to identify features that adolescents experiencing neglect and/ or emotional maltreatment report.

Method: A rapid review methodology searched 8 databases (1990-2014), supplemented by hand searching journals, and references, identifying 2,568 abstracts. Two independent reviews were undertaken of 279 articles, by trained reviewers, using standardised critical appraisal. Eligible studies: primary studies of children aged 13-17 years, with substantiated neglect and/ or emotional maltreatment, containing self-reported features.

Results: 19 publications from 13 studies were included, demonstrating associations between both neglect and emotional maltreatment with internalising features (9 studies) including depression, post traumatic symptomatology and anxiety; emotional maltreatment was associated with suicidal ideation, while neglect was not (1 study); neglect was associated with alcohol related problems (3 studies), substance misuse (2 studies), delinquency for boys (1 study), teenage pregnancy (1 study), and general victimization for girls (1 study), while emotionally maltreated girls reported more externalising symptoms (1 study). Dating violence victimization was associated with neglect and emotional maltreatment (2 studies), while emotional abuse of boys, but not neglect, was associated with dating violence perpetration (1 study), and neither neglect nor emotional maltreatment had an association with low self-esteem (2 studies). Neither neglect nor emotional maltreatment had an effect on school performance (1 study), but neglected boys showed greater school engagement than neglected girls (1 study).

Conclusions: If asked, neglected or emotionally maltreated adolescents describe significant difficulties with their mental health, social relationships, and alcohol or substance misuse. Practitioners working with youths who exhibit these features should recognize the detrimental impact of maltreatment at this developmental stage, and identify whether maltreatment is a contributory factor that should be addressed.

SOURCE: Naughton, A. M.; Cowley, L. E.; Tempest, V.; Maguire,  S. A.; Mann, M. K. and Kemp, A. M. “Ask Me! Self-reported Features of Adolescents Experiencing Neglect or Emotional Maltreatment: A rapid systematic review.” Child: Care, Health and Development [First published online:

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