Childhood Maltreatment Predicts Adult Emotional Difficulties

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.

Have you ever wanted to convey a feeling but just couldn’t find the right words? Millions of people struggle with a personality trait known as alexithymia, which means “no words for feelings.” Individuals with alexithymia have difficulty identifying and describing their emotions. This trait can harm their social and intimate relationships. They are likely to miss social cues and thus fail to recognize or understand the feelings of others. Past research has suggested that a history of child maltreatment could play a role in developing adult alexithymia.

A new meta-analysis published this month in Psychological Bulletin, led by Stanford University researchers, is the first study to synthesize empirical evidence in global literature on links between adult alexithymia and all forms of child maltreatment.

“We can say now with more confidence that these phenomena—child maltreatment and alexithymia—are related to each other to a great extent,” said senior co-author Anat Talmon, who supervised the study as a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University and currently serves as an assistant professor with the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The researchers examined 78 published sources that reported details of potential child maltreatment and levels of alexithymia in adulthood. In total, 36,141 participants were included in the study conducted by the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory with collaborators at the Hebrew University and Adam Mickiewicz University.

Three child maltreatment types—emotional neglect, emotional abuse, and physical neglect—were particularly strong predictors of alexithymia. Emotional neglect and physical neglect commonly occur together. Two other types—sexual abuse and physical abuse—were related to alexithymia but were less strongly predictive.

Source: MedicalXpress

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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