How Does Child Neglect Affect a Child’s Self-Esteem in Adulthood?

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 1
Words: 413
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: College


Child neglect and maltreatment are unfortunately common social problems in the global world of today. The repercussions of the ill-treatment in childhood can take many forms, from drug use (Oshri, Carlson, Kwon, Zeichner & Wickrama, 2017) to mental health issues such as depression (Xiang, Wang & Guan, 2018). As Waldron, Scarpa, and Kim-Spoon (2018) suggest in their paper, numerous factors during childhood lead to an increased risk of a lowered self-esteem in the future life. The study examined the links between child maltreatment and self-esteem in later life (Waldron, Scarpa & Kim-Spoon, 2018). The following essay summarizes Religiosity and Interpersonal Problems Explain Individual Differences in Self Esteem Among Young Adults with Child Maltreatment Experiences.

Method, Measures and Procedure

The study in question consisted of 718 female participants with a mean age of 19.53, all from a large public university (Waldron, Scarpa & Kim-Spoon, 2018). The majority of the women were self-reported Caucasians (80.8%), with other ethnicities also present. The participants were given a 25-item childhood trauma questionnaire, a Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality, an Inventory of interpersonal problems, and a Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale (Waldron, Scarpa & Kim-Spoon, 2018). The questionnaires were conducted online, confidentially, and in under an hour (Waldron, Scarpa & Kim-Spoon, 2018).


A strong positive correlation was found between child maltreatment and IIP subscales and God as Negative (Waldron, Scarpa & Kim-Spoon, 2018). Furthermore, a strong negative correlation was found between the child maltreatment variables and self-esteem (Waldron, Scarpa & Kim-Spoon, 2018). This means that the women that were maltreated in childhood were more likely not to be religious and to have lower self-esteem. There was also a link between emotional abuse and decreased self-esteem in adulthood (Waldron, Scarpa & Kim-Spoon, 2018).

Discussion and Limitations

It is not surprising that the study linked emotional abuse and neglect in childhood to lower self-esteem in adult life. Although it was found that all childhood maltreatment, including physical abuse and neglect, and sexual abuse, was responsible for long-term effects on interpersonal relations and self-esteem, emotional abuse and neglect were most prominent (Waldron, Scarpa & Kim-Spoon, 2018). Some of the limitations of this study include the fact that all the participants were female and primarily Caucasian, which is not representative of the more general demographic (Waldron, Scarpa & Kim-Spoon, 2018). Furthermore, since the questionnaires were self-administered, it isn’t easy to judge their validity (Waldron, Scarpa & Kim-Spoon, 2018). Further studies should consider more dimensions and a more extensive and more diverse participant pool.


Oshri, A., Carlson, M.W., Kwon, J.A., Zeichner, A. & Wickrama, K. K. A. S. (2017). Developmental Growth Trajectories of Self-Esteem in Adolescence: Associations with Child Neglect and Drug Use and Abuse in Young Adulthood. J Youth Adolescence 46, 151–164.

Xiang, Y., Wang, W., & Fang, G. (2018). The Relationship Between Child Maltreatment and Dispositional Envy and the Mediating Effect of Self-Esteem and Social Support in Young Adults. Front. Psychol., 9(1054), 103–108.

Waldron, J. C., Scarpa, A. & Kim-Spoon, J. (2018). Religiosity and Interpersonal Problems Explain Individual Differences in Self Esteem Among Young Adults with Child Maltreatment Experiences. Child Abuse & Neglect, 80, 277-284.