SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • child abuse;
  • child development;
  • developmental assessment

Aim

The study aims to describe the developmental and behavioural difficulties in pre-school children who have experienced maltreatment and/or neglect

Methods

A retrospective medical file audit of all children assessed at the Cottage Family Care Centre, a child protection pre-school, between April 2004 and June 2010. Demographic characteristics, parent and teacher reports, and clinical and developmental assessment results were collated and analysed.

Results

The average age of the 55 children assessed was 36.3 months (ranging from 14 to 55.3 months). Fifty-five per cent were male and 65% were from disadvantaged families. A significant developmental delay in at least one domain and or a significant behavioural problem was identified in 91% of assessments. Overall (or global) delay was found in 38% and this was significantly more likely in girls (P = 0.03). Emotional and/or behavioural difficulties were reported in 85% of children. Internalising problem behaviours were more common than externalising problems. A diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder was made in four children. In the six review assessments, regression was identified in three children.

Conclusions

Children who have experienced maltreatment and/or neglect may present with developmental delays and behavioural problems. Language delays and internalising problems are characteristic. There are many features in common with primary developmental disorders. The presence of fearfulness and hypervigilance may provide a clue to diagnosis.