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There are over 1,000,000 substantiated reports of child maltreatment annually in the US alone (US Department of Health 2013). The impact of maltreatment on development and health is indisputable. The last two decades showed brisk research in the area of trauma and dissociation all over the world. It is therefore quite surprising to find psychology textbooks to be so behind the times (and behind the data) on covering child maltreatment. This leaves hundreds of thousands of students a year with less-than-accurate information that may impact their ability to identify or understand the aftermath of child maltreatment.
In an important article (also see full link below), Brand and McEwen review the three leading introductory psychology textbooks and how they address (or not address) childhood maltreatment and its aftermath. The results are distressing in lack of citing of current data (as in many textbooks on psychopathology).
One can hypothesize why prominent textbooks will not sufficiently cover such an important topic (one would think they would find it essential to cover well if only for the known health effects of childhood maltreatment across the lifespan, in both physical and psychological health, costs, and healthcare utilization). Maybe it is as simple as using outdated resources or not keeping up with research and known data. Maybe it speaks to more widespread issues of denial and minimization of childhood maltreatment. Maybe other reasons. Regardless of why the textbooks are lacking, the reality remains that the textbooks leave students un-informed on the topic.
The good news is that this can be changed! The data is available–it just needs to be included and reviewed better!
Hopefully having more awareness to this will allow students and faculty to challenge the choice of textbooks and to demand better coverage of such a relevant issue. Students are shortchanged when they are under-informed and when data is slanted or may appear to be biased or outdated.
What can you do?
Let your faculty, librarian, and fellow clinicians and students know that our college students deserve a more cohesive review of childhood maltreatment. Share the article below. Talk to professors who teach these courses and support them in seeking better balanced textbooks. The research is available, it simply needs to be included rather than avoided. Let us work together for improving information in education!
Coverage of Child Maltreatment and Its Effects in Three Introductory Psychology Textbooks / Bethany L. Brand, PhD, and Linda E. McEwen, MA