Recent evidence suggests that subjective (e.g. self-reports) and objective (e.g. court-based evidence, social services/police investigations) measures of childhood maltreatment show poor agreement. However, it remains unclear whether the association between childhood maltreatment and future mental health difficulties varies depending on how childhood abuse and neglect is measured. To address this issue, Danese and Widom (2020) (PDF) explored data from a longitudinal cohort of hundreds of children with both objective court-based evidence of maltreatment and subjective self reports in adulthood. They found that objective measures of childhood maltreatment alone did not heighten an individual’s risk of future mental health difficulties. Instead, the risk was heightened for adults who self-reported experiences of childhood and neglect. In other words, these findings suggest that an increased risk of mental health difficulties may be more strongly linked to the subjective recall of abuse and neglect rather than their objective appraisal.
Danese, A., & Widom, C. S. (2020). Objective and subjective experiences of child maltreatment and their relationships with psychopathology. Nature Human Behaviour, 4, 811-818. doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-0880-3 (PDF)