Is maltreatment of children a problem, and what are the effects on their development and functioning?


Case Study, Mohr

Chapter 33, Violence and Abuse

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In completing the case study, students will be addressing the following learning objectives:

Discuss the effects of maltreatment on child development.

Describe an organizational model for the multiple conditions that support community violence.

1. Nita’s mother died when she was an infant. Her father married a young woman 1 year after the death of Nita’s mother. A baby girl was born to the stepmother 2 years later, followed by the birth of a baby boy 4 years later. The stepmother showed much preferential treatment to her own children, while she basically ignored Nita except to routinely ridicule her. The most difficult household chores were given to Nita, with no chores given to her own daughter. The stepmother frequently severely punished Nita without reason. Publicly, the stepmother insisted that she treated Nita and her daughter alike in every way. However, she always praised her own daughter, while continuing to verbally abuse Nita. Nita’s father put his wife in full charge and had almost no interaction with Nita. He, too, showed preferential treatment for his two children with his second wife. When Nita was 14 years old, her aunt insisted that Nita move to live with her. The aunt was very nurturing, and Nita’s life improved tremendously. Nita was very intelligent and excelled in school. Nevertheless, she was slow to make close friends and lacked confidence in social situations. Nita became a successful professional as a college professor. Nita appeared afraid to form a close relationship and was 31 years old when she married.

(Learning Objectives: 1) a. Is maltreatment of children a problem, and what are the effects on their development and functioning?

b.Discuss the Ecological Model of Violence and how it applies to the case of Nita


The Effects of Maltreatment on Child Development: A Case Study Analysis


Maltreatment of children is a pervasive issue with far-reaching consequences on their development and functioning. This case study explores the life of Nita, who experienced neglect, emotional abuse, and preferential treatment within her family. By examining Nita’s story through the lens of the Ecological Model of Violence, we can gain insights into the various conditions that support community violence and their impact on an individual’s well-being.

Effects of Maltreatment on Child Development

Problem of Child Maltreatment: Child maltreatment is a significant problem with profound implications for individuals and society as a whole. It encompasses various forms, including physical, emotional, and neglectful abuse (Petersen, 2014). Maltreatment can lead to severe and lasting consequences for children, affecting their physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Effects on Nita’s Development and Functioning: Nita’s experience of maltreatment had profound effects on her development and functioning. Neglect and emotional abuse by her stepmother, coupled with the preferential treatment towards her own children, resulted in Nita feeling rejected, isolated, and undermined. Such adverse experiences during childhood can shape an individual’s self-esteem, interpersonal skills, and overall well-being.

Nita’s low self-confidence and hesitance in social situations can be attributed to the emotional abuse she endured. The constant ridicule and lack of support from her stepmother prevented Nita from forming a healthy self-image and hindered her ability to trust others. Consequently, Nita struggled to make close friendships and lacked confidence in her interactions with others.

Moreover, the preferential treatment and differential allocation of household chores reinforced a sense of injustice and inadequacy within Nita. This unequal treatment further contributed to her feelings of isolation and eroded her sense of self-worth. As a result, Nita may have developed an internalized belief that she was undeserving of positive attention and affection.

The Ecological Model of Violence

The Ecological Model of Violence provides a framework to understand the multiple conditions that contribute to community violence. It emphasizes that violence is not an isolated occurrence but rather a product of various interconnected factors at different levels of the social ecology.

Applying the Ecological Model to Nita’s case, we can identify the following conditions that perpetuated the maltreatment she experienced:

Individual Level: Nita’s stepmother’s personal biases and insecurities likely influenced her maltreatment of Nita. Her own unresolved issues and feelings of inadequacy may have contributed to her need to exert power and control over Nita.

Family Level: Nita’s father’s passive role and lack of intervention allowed the maltreatment to persist (Odhayani, 2013). His preference for his second wife’s children and disregard for Nita’s well-being created an unhealthy family dynamic that perpetuated the abuse.

Community Level: Nita’s aunt, who provided a nurturing and supportive environment, played a critical role in mitigating the effects of the maltreatment (Daro & Dodge, 2009). Her intervention offered an alternative model of care and protection, demonstrating the importance of supportive community networks in preventing and addressing child maltreatment.


Child maltreatment is a significant problem with profound consequences for a child’s development and functioning. Nita’s case highlights the long-lasting impact of maltreatment, including low self-esteem, social difficulties, and delayed emotional growth. By applying the Ecological Model of Violence, we can understand how multiple conditions at the individual, family, and community levels contribute to the perpetuation of maltreatment.

Efforts to address child maltreatment must encompass interventions at each level of the ecological model. This includes promoting awareness and prevention strategies, empowering individuals to recognize and report abuse, strengthening family support systems, and fostering nurturing and safe communities. By prioritizing the well-being and protection of children, we can work towards creating a society that values and safeguards their development and potential.


Daro, D., & Dodge, K. A. (2009). Creating Community Responsibility for Child Protection: Possibilities and Challenges. The Future of Children, 19(2), 67–93. 

Odhayani, A. A. (2013, August 1). Behavioural consequences of child abuse. PubMed Central (PMC). 

Petersen, A. C. (2014, March 25). Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect. New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research – NCBI Bookshelf. 

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