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Publication Date


Document Type



School for Social Work


Psychological child abuse-Diagnosis, Psychological child abuse-Prevention, Child abuse-Psychological aspects, Detectives, Child welfare, Psychodiagnostics, Psychological maltreatment, Child protection, Initial assessment workers, Emotional abuse and emotional neglect


Scholars agree child welfare programs should prioritize addressing psychological maltreatment to better understand and prevent child maltreatment. However, there is no empirical evidence to support this argument. One step toward generating preliminary evidence to support this argument is to qualitatively explore the merits of addressing psychological maltreatment from the perspectives of professionals conducting child abuse and neglect investigations. Through the use of one-time, semi-structured, face-to-face qualitative interviews, this study aimed to explore and describe how 9 initial assessment workers within child protection and 9 detectives within a special victims unit do the following: 1) understand, interpret, and act on psychological maltreatment; 2) interpret the concepts of ensuring safety and well-being from their professional perspectives; 3) view the investigation of psychological maltreatment as a priority within their professional role; 4) view the investigation of psychological maltreatment as a personal priority; and 5) identify how or if psychological maltreatment should be addressed differently within child abuse and neglect work. Qualitative content analysis yielded both manifest and latent content. The following is a list of the categories used to organize the manifest content found with in the unit of analysis: 1)Psychological Maltreatment Interacts with Other Forms of Maltreatment; 2) Infrequent Use of the Term Psychological Maltreatment; 3) Interpreting Psychological Maltreatment: Professional Views and Standards; 4) Action Taken to Address Psychological Maltreatment; 5) Professional Views on Action Taken: Reason for Removal; 6) Feelings about Action Taken; 7) Professional Views on Ensuring the Safety and Well-Being of Children; 8) Psychological Maltreatment as a Priority within CPS: Professional Views; 9) Addressing Psychological Maltreatment: Personal Perspectives; 10) Professional Views: What Can be Done Differently? These categories reflect the collective responses of the participants. The following themes emerged as the latent content: a) All Maltreatment is Psychological Maltreatment; b) Implicit Knowledge of Acts that Constitute Psychological Maltreatment; c) Professional Knowledge Does Not Dictate Action; d) Professional Knowledge is Not Expert Knowledge; e) Discrepancies Between Professional and Personal Priorities; f) The Role of Therapist: The Expert of Psychological Maltreatment. This study has the potential to influence practice and policy decisions within the field of child welfare as it identifies new factors that create obstacles to investigating and addressing psychological maltreatment among children and youth.




iv, 128 pages. Dissertation (Ph.D.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 106-112)