Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The present study had two purposes. First, it examined the combined and unique contribution of five maltreatment types to variance in adolescent adjustment (i.e., physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and exposure to family violence). In accordance with contemporary social learning theory (social cognitive theory), it was hypothesized that aggressive forms of maltreatment would predict externalizing problems, particularly for boys, whereas nonaggressive maltreatment would predict internalizing problems. Second, the study examined the predictive utility of blame attributions for maltreatment. Integrating the writings of several theorists regarding blame attribution, it was predicted that self-blame would mediate or moderate internalizing problems, whereas other-blame would mediate or moderate externalizing problems. Mediator and moderator models were tested separately.;Adolescents (N = 160, aged 11-17) were randomly selected from the open caseload of a child protection agency. Subjects made global severity ratings regarding their experiences of the five types of maltreatment. Similar ratings were made for each subject by the adolescent's social worker and by trained raters of case files. Subjects also completed the Attribution for Maltreatment Interview (AFMI) to assess self- and perpetrator-blame for each type of maltreatment they experienced. Subjects also completed a battery of measures assessing self- and caretaker-reported externalizing and internalizing symptomatology.;Discrepancies in maltreatment occurrence and severity judgements were found between adolescents and professionals. Adolescent maltreatment ratings significantly predicted self-reported adjustment, even when controlling for sex, age, SES, receptive vocabulary, and stressful life events. Emotional abuse was the most predictively potent maltreatment type, and enhanced the predictive utility of other maltreatment types.;The AFMI yielded five subscales: self-blaming cognition, self-blaming affect, self-excusing, perpetrator-blame, and perpetrator-excusing. Controlling for maltreatment severity, these subscales explained significant variance in self-reported adjustment. Self-blaming affect was the most potent, particularly among females. Attributions were found to both mediate and moderate maltreatment severity.;The findings were consistent with recent developments in social learning theory. They illustrated that victims' subjective appraisals of maltreatment are important to adjustment. The sophistication of blame attribution processes among victims was underscored. Implications for theory, measurement, and clinical practice are discussed.



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