Cluster Child maltreatment

Cluster head: Prof. Lenneke Alink

Child maltreatment, including abuse and neglect, occurs all over the world, in different cultures within and across countries. There are indications that low socio-economic status, unemployment, and single parenthood are risk factors for maltreatment, but the question how these and other factors increase the risk for maltreatment still needs to be explored. Furthermore, maltreatment has devastating consequences for the victims. Individuals who have experienced abuse or neglect in their childhoods are at greater risk for different types of emotional, cognitive, and somatic problems. However, the mechanisms underlying these consequences are not yet fully understood. In this research cluster we investigate the prevalence, predictors, and consequences of child maltreatment, using a multidisciplinary approach, focusing on neurobiological factors as well as socio-economic and family processes. We have performed two National Prevalence studies of Maltreatment of youth (NPM-2005 and 2010). The most recent NPM showed that in the Netherlands about 119.000 children have been victims of maltreatment in 2010.

We also study differences between maltreating and nonmaltreating parents to explore risk factors for and processes that lead to maltreatment. In one of our research projects we specifically focus on stress regulation as a process underlying child maltreatment. In addition, we investigate the short- and long-term consequences of child maltreatment on brain development and behavior and study the mechanisms of these effects. One of the most striking consequences is the increased risk for maltreating their own children. Therefore, a central focus of this research cluster is to unravel the process of intergenerational transmission of abuse. We do this in a multigenerational family study in which we focus on individuals who do and ones who do not break the cycle of abuse and neglect. The knowledge that we gain with the different studies in this research cluster is used to design and test the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing the risk of child maltreatment.

Key publications

  • Euser, E.M., Van IJzendoorn, M.H., Prinzie, P., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J. (2010). Prevalence of child maltreatment in the  Netherlands. Child Maltreatment, 15, 5-17.
  • Alink, L.R.A., Cicchetti, D., Kim, J., & Rogosch, F.A. (2012). Longitudinal associations among child maltreatment, social functioning, and cortisol regulation. Developmental Psychology, 48, 224-236. 


Last Modified: 04-01-2016