A new study at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) indicates that the incidence of maltreatment, including neglect and physical and sexual abuse, is more than 25% higher among deaf and hard-of-hearing children than among hearing youths.
The research also shows a direct correlation between childhood maltreatment and higher rates of negative cognition, depression, and post-traumatic stress in adulthood.
The study, which was presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, is one of the first to compare childhood maltreatment between deaf and hearing children.
Lindsay Schenkel, assistant professor of psychology at RIT and director of the research team, commented in the press release, “By providing clear data on the high rate of childhood maltreatment in the deaf community, we hope to shine a light on the issue and provide mental-health professionals with the necessary data to better treat both children and adults suffering from mental and behavioral disorders.”
The researchers conducted a survey of 425 college students, 317 hearing and 108 deaf, asking them to describe any maltreatment they had experienced prior to the age of 16.
Seventy-seven percent of deaf and hard-of-hearing respondents indicated experiencing some form of child maltreatment, compared with 49% among hearing respondents. In addition, respondents with more severe hearing loss indicated an increased rate and severity of maltreatment.
Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers also found that having a deaf parent or a family member who signs or who is part of the deaf community did not reduce the risk of childhood maltreatment.
In addition, the study shows that the rate of depression and post-traumatic stress was also higher among all deaf and hard-of-hearing respondents regardless of maltreatment. However, those hearing impaired individuals who are active members of the deaf community report fewer depressive and post-traumatic stress symptoms.