The Effects of Maltreatment in Childhood on Working Memory Capacity in Adulthood

Arta Dodaj, Marijana Krajina, Kristina Sesar, Nataša Šimić


The aim of this study was to research the relation between exposure to maltreatment in childhood and working memory capacity in adulthood. A survey among 376 females in the age between 16 and 67 was administered. Exposure to maltreatment in childhood (sexual, physical and psychological abuse, neglect and witnessing family violence) was assessed retrospectively using the Child Maltreatment Questionnaire (Karlović, Buljan-Flander, & Vranić, 2001), whilst the Working Memory Questionnaire (Vallat-Azouvi, Pradat-Diehl, & Azouvi, 2012) was used to assess working memory capacity (recalling verbal information, numerical information, attention ability and executive functioning). The results suggest a significantly greater prevalence of physical abuse and witnessing family violence in comparison to other forms of maltreatment in childhood. Psychological abuse and witnessing family violence have shown themselves to be statistically significant predictors for deficits in total working memory capacity, verbal recall and attention ability. The results suggest that traumatic experiences during childhood, such as abuse, may trigger particular cognitive changes which may be reflected in adulthood. It is, therefore, exceedingly important to conduct further research in order to contribute to the understanding of the correlation between cognitive difficulties and maltreatment in childhood.


maltreatment in childhood; trauma; cognitive functioning; working memory; executive functions

Full Text: PDF HTML