03. tbl. 101. árg. 2015

Prevalence and diversity of emotional abuse and neglect in childhood in Iceland

Algengi og margbreytileiki andlegs ofbeldis og reynsla af vanrækslu í æsku á Íslandi

Introduction: Parenting styles that include abuse can harm the development of the child's brain with a long or short-term impact on his/her health and behaviour. The scope and diversity of abuse are important determinants, and neglect is one of its most serious manifestations. The aim of the study is to examine the prevalence and diversity of emotional abuse and neglect reported by adult Icelanders in their childhood, and how such experience had influenced their evaluation of their upbringing.

Materials and methods: Icelanders 18 years and older were randomly selected from the national population register. They were invited to express their perception of their upbringing, and answer questions regarding their experience of 8 specific forms of emotional abuse in childhood, and neglect.

Results: Of 966 interviewees, 663 (69%) had experienced one or more of the 8 forms of emotional abuse. Those younger than 30 years were 2.9 times more likely to have such an experience compared to those who were older (95% CI 1.9 to 4.3). The perception of upbringing as bad or acceptable compared to good was significantly related to the number of forms of emotional abuse applied (p <0.0001) and the scope of its application (p<0.0001). In total 105 (11%) considered that they had experienced neglect in childhood. Significantly more men than women had experienced emotional abuse (p= 0.0020), whereas women reported neglect (p=0.0440).

Conclusion: More than 2/3 of adult Icelanders report experience of one or more out of 8 different forms of emotional abuse and 1/10 report neglect. Parenting styles can be changed, e.g. with education, social support, and legislation.

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