Academic achievement despite child maltreatment: A longitudinal study

Carol Coohey, Lynette M. Renner, Lei Hua, Ying J. Zhang, Stephen D. Whitney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Purpose: Although researchers have concluded that child maltreatment has a negative effect on children's learning and academic achievement, not all children are negatively affected by maltreatment, and some children seem to succeed academically despite being maltreated. Drawing on risk and resilience theory, we examined a broad range of potential risk, promotive, and protective factors within children and their environments along with characteristics of the maltreatment to account for variability in test scores. Methods: A national longitudinal probability sample of 702 maltreated school-aged children, ages 6-10, and their caregivers was used to predict reading and math scores among maltreated children over three years. Results: We found that chronic maltreatment, poorer daily living skills, and lower intelligence explained a substantial proportion of the variance in maltreated children's math scores (39%), whereas type of maltreatment, poorer daily living skills and lower intelligence explained a substantial proportion of the variance in reading scores (54%) over time. Contrary to our prediction, having a behavior problem seemed to protect chronically maltreated children from poorer performance in math over time. Conclusions: To increase academic achievement among maltreated children, it is imperative that we prevent chronic maltreatment and help children increase their competency on daily living skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-699
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic achievement
  • Anger/aggression
  • Domestic violence
  • Externalizing behavior
  • Math and reading scores
  • Physical abuse
  • School success

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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