Prediction of emotional intelligence and theory of mind in adults who have experienced childhood maltreatment
Impairments in aspects of social cognition have been found in children who have experienced maltreatment; however, the long-term impact of childhood maltreatment on social cognition is less well understood. This study examined areas of social cognition that may be associated with poor psychological, social, and emotional outcomes in adults who have experienced intra-familial childhood maltreatment. In a sample of university students (N = 68), childhood maltreatment was associated with social cognitive impairment in two models of emotional intelligence (EI), trait EI and ability EI, and advanced theory of mind (ToM). Higher frequency and severity of specific subtypes of childhood maltreatment predicted lower trait EI, ability EI, and ToM. In particular, neglect predicted lower ToM and ability EI scores. Psychological abuse alone predicted lower trait EI while physical abuse was not a significant predictor for any of the social-cognitive variables. Further, the data showed maternal vs. paternal maltreatment predicted specific social cognitive outcomes. Understanding the relationship between social cognitive deficits and intra-familial maltreatment may guide clinical and community assessment and treatment approaches, as well as provide information on the pervasive and continuing impact of childhood maltreatment.