This study compared the prevalence of self-reported childhood physical abuse and neglect and the associated psychopathological sequelae among Kenyan, Zambian, and Dutch university students. In addition, we sought to find out the differentiated role of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in mediating the associations between childhood maltreatment experiences and psychopathology symptoms. The sample consisted of 862 university students from Kenya (n = 375), Zambia (n = 182), and The Netherlands (n = 305) who completed the Personal and Relationships Profile (PRP). Results showed that physical abuse was highly prevalent in Kenya (59%) and Zambia (40%), and that neglect was even more prevalent than physical abuse in Zambia and The Netherlands at 59%, 54%, and 42% for the Kenyan, Zambian, and Dutch samples respectively. Neglect was associated with psychopathological symptoms in all three samples, whereas physical abuse was associated with psychopathological sequelae in the Kenyan and Zambian samples only. PTSS mediated the association between neglect and psychopathology symptoms in the Dutch sample and between physical abuse and psychopathology symptoms in the Dutch and Kenyan samples. We conclude that physical abuse and neglect are associated with psychopathology symptoms independently of country and cultural context. However, the pathways through which physical abuse and neglect may lead to psychopathological sequelae may be dependent on perceptions of specific parental behavior in different sociocultural contexts.
- Child physical abuse