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July/August 2004Vol. 5, No. 6Uncommon Disorders in Children Who Have Been Severely Maltreated

Children who have experienced severe maltreatment are at greater risk for developing a number of uncommon behavioral and emotional disorders. Clinicians in a position to diagnose and treat these children must be aware of the symptoms of these uncommon disorders and of the increased vulnerability of these children. To provide information on some of these disorders, the May 2004 issue of Child Maltreatment focuses on recognizing and treating uncommon disorders in children and adolescents who have been severely maltreated.

Individual articles address six specific disorders, including descriptions, theories of etiology, associated behaviors, comorbid disorders, obstacles to diagnosis, and guidelines for mental health services. The six disorders are:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Reactive attachment disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Somatization and other somatoform disorders (physical complaints triggered by emotional distress).

The articles note that treatment may be more complex for these children due to their experience of severe abuse. Factors to consider in designing a treatment plan should include medical issues caused by the abuse, individual strengths of the child or family, the child's ability to form an attachment to an adult, possible developmental delays, and determining the full consequences of the maltreatment.

Child Maltreatment is the Journal of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Information about subscribing to this journal can be found at

Related Item

Children's Bureau Express covered this topic in "Abused Children Susceptible to Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Problems as Adults" (January/February 2001).