Expert Lindsay Schenkel It now seems that deaf and hard-of-hearing children endure higher abuse rates than hearing youths. According to a study led by the Rochester Institute of Technology, the incidence of maltreatment, neglect and physical as well as sexual abuse is more than 25 percent higher among deaf and hard-of-hearing children as compared to hearing youths. The study also links childhood maltreatment directly with higher rates of negative cognition, depression and post-traumatic stress in adulthood.

A total of 425 college students, which included 317 hearing and 108 deaf, were subjected to a survey. Scientists asked them to describe any maltreatment they had faced before the age of 16 years. 77 percent deaf and hard-of-hearing respondents as well as 49 percent hearing respondents had reportedly experienced some form of child maltreatment. It was observed that participants with more severe hearing loss supposedly have a heightened rate and severity of maltreatment. The risk of childhood maltreatment may not diminish in the presence of a deaf parent or a family member who signs, or being part of the deaf community.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing subjects who suffered maltreatment possibly had higher rates of negative cognitions about themselves, others and the future than hearing individuals. The rate of depression and post-traumatic stress appeared greater in all deaf and hard-of-hearing respondents regardless of maltreatment. Lindsay Schenkel, assistant professor of psychology at RIT and director of the research team and colleagues will carry out further investigations for analyzing the issue of child maltreatment in deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Also attempts to learn the impact of maltreatment on mental-health functioning will be undertaken.

The study was presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.