Study: Abuse rates higher among d/hh children compared with hearing youths

Study: Abuse rates higher among deaf and hard-of-hearing children compared
with hearing youths

January 18, 2011

A new study at Rochester Institute of Technology indicates that the
incidence of maltreatment, including neglect and physical and sexual abuse,
is more than 25 percent higher among deaf and hard-of-hearing children than
among hearing youths. The research also shows a direct correlation between
childhood maltreatment and higher rates of negative cognition, depression
and post-traumatic stress in adulthood.

The study, which was presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the Association
of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, is one of the first to compare
childhood maltreatment between deaf and hearing children.

“By providing clear data on the high rate of childhood maltreatment in the
deaf community, we hope to shine a light on the issue and provide
mental-health professionals with the necessary data to better treat both
children and adults suffering from mental and behavioral disorders,” notes
Lindsay Schenkel, assistant professor of psychology at RIT and director of
the research team.

The group, which also included undergraduate psychology student Danielle
Burnash and Gail Rothman-Marshall, associate professor of liberal studies at
RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, conducted a survey of 425
college students, 317 hearing and 108 deaf, asking them to describe any
maltreatment they had experienced prior to the age of 16.

Seventy-seven percent of deaf and hard-of-hearing respondents indicated
experiencing some form of child maltreatment, compared with 49 percent among
hearing respondents. In addition, respondents with more severe hearing loss
indicated an increased rate and severity of maltreatment.

“Interestingly, having a deaf parent or a family member who signs, or being
part of the deaf community, did not reduce the risk of childhood
maltreatment,” Burnash notes.

The team also found that deaf and hard-of-hearing respondents who had
suffered maltreatment had higher rates of negative cognitions about
themselves, others and the future compared with hearing individuals who had
suffered maltreatment. The rate of depression and post-traumatic stress was
also higher among all deaf and hard-of-hearing respondents regardless of

Schenkel, Rothman-Marshall and Burnash plan to continue to examine the issue
of child maltreatment in deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals and the impact
this has on mental-health functioning with the goal of developing
standardized assessments and more effective treatments for this population.

“For example, our research shows that individuals who are active members of
the deaf community report fewer depressive and post-traumatic stress
symptoms,” Schenkel adds.

Provided by Rochester Institute of Technology


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