U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Child Abuse & Neglect 25 (2001) 623–639.


Objective: Reports of childhood emotional maltreatment have increased greatly over the past decade. The objective of this research was to determine the types of emotional maltreatment substantiated in a community of US Army families residing temporarily in Germany. Such a description may help to improve the understanding of how a jurisdictional body defines emotional maltreatment in day-to-day practice.
Method: Data were obtained from a review of the minutes of case review committees (CRCs) for 181 cases of child emotional abuse in 1997–1998. We determined the type, number, and severity of incidents, the substantiation rate, and the situations to which children were exposed.
Results: The most frequently substantiated type of incident was witnessing domestic violence, 60% of all cases. Primary emotional abuse was found in 26% of cases, while emotional abuse in conjunction with child physical abuse or child neglect was found in 14% of cases. The more severe the case, the more likely it was to be substantiated.
Conclusions: Emotional maltreatment was substantiated more as a single type than in combination with other forms of maltreatment. Seeing emotional abuse as a single entity may allow clinicians to focus on a relationship or situation (such as spouse abuse) that is potentially harmful to a child. However, recognizing the emotionally abusive aspects of child physical abuse and neglect could allow an expanded treatment plan that could include treatment of the emotionally abusive behavior to strengthen the relationship of the caregiver to the child, in addition to the focus on the physical abuse and neglect.