Minimization of childhood maltreatment is common and consequential: results from a large, multinational sample using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire

Kai MacDonald, Michael L. Thomas, Andres F. Sciolla, Beacher Schneider, Katherine Pappas, Gijs Bleijenberg, Martin Bohus, Bradley Bekh, Linda Carpenter, Alan Carr, Udo Dannlowski, Martin Dorahy, Claudia Fahlke, Ricky Finzi-Dottan, Tobi Karu, Arne Gerdner, Heide Glaesmer, Hans Jörgen Grabe, Marianne Heins, Dianna T. KennyDaeho Kim, Hans Knoop, Jill Lobbestael, Christine Lochner, Grethe Lauritzen, Edle Ravndal, Shelley Riggs, Vedat Sar, Ingo Schäfer, Nicole Schlosser, Melanie L. Schwandt, Murray B. Stein, Claudia Subic-Wrana, Mark Vogel, Katja Wingenfeld

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Childhood maltreatment has diverse, lifelong impact on morbidity and mortality. The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) is one of the most commonly used scales to assess and quantify these experiences and their impact. Curiously, despite very widespread use of the CTQ, scores on its Minimization-Denial (MD) subscale-originally designed to assess a positive response bias-are rarely reported. Hence, little is known about this measure. If response biases are either common or consequential, current practices of ignoring the MD scale deserve revision. Therewith, we designed a study to investigate 3 aspects of minimization, as defined by the CTQ's MD scale: 1) its prevalence; 2) its latent structure; and finally 3) whether minimization moderates the CTQ's discriminative validity in terms of distinguishing between psychiatric patients and community volunteers. Archival, item-level CTQ data from 24 multinational samples were combined for a total of 19,652 participants. Analyses indicated: 1) minimization is common; 2) minimization functions as a continuous construct; and 3) high MD scores attenuate the ability of the CTQ to distinguish between psychiatric patients and community volunteers. Overall, results suggest that a minimizing response bias-as detected by the MD subscale-has a small but significant moderating effect on the CTQ's discriminative validity. Results also may suggest that some prior analyses of maltreatment rates or the effects of early maltreatment that have used the CTQ may have underestimated its incidence and impact. We caution researchers and clinicians about the widespread practice of using the CTQ without the MD or collecting MD data but failing to assess and control for its effects on outcomes or dependent variables.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0146058
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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