Is children’s animal cruelty a marker for their physical abuse?

Escrito por NLC.

Childhood cruelty to animals is thought to indicate that a child may have been
maltreated. This study of 2,232 children in the United Kingdom examined: (a)
prevalence of cruelty to animals among 5- to 12-year-old children; (b) the association
between cruelty to animals, child physical maltreatment, and adult domestic violence;
and (c) whether cruelty to animals is a marker of maltreatment taking into account
age, persistence of cruelty, and socioeconomic disadvantage. 9% of children were cruel
to animals during the study and 2.6% persistently. Children who were cruel to animals were twice as likely to have been physically maltreated as children who had not been maltreated. In disadvantaged families, 60% of children who were cruel to animals had been maltreated. Animal cruelty was not associated with domestic violence when maltreatment was controlled for. In other families, the likelihood of maltreatment increased with age (from 30% in 5-year-olds to 45% in 10-12-year-olds) and  persistence. Although childhood cruelty to animals is associated with maltreatment, not every child
showing cruelty had been maltreated. The usefulness of cruelty to animals as a marker for maltreatment increases with the child's age, persistence of behavior, and poorer social background. The researchers emphasizes that “it is important that childhood cruelty to animals is not treated as evidence of child maltreatment in-and-of-itself. Instead, professionals should seek to understand the significance of the child’s cruelty in the context of their other behavior, family and neighborhood environment.”

-- McEwen, F.S., Moffitt, T.E., & Arseneault, L. (2014). Is childhood cruelty to animals a marker for physical maltreatment in a prospective cohort study of children? Child Abuse & Neglect, 38(3), 533-543.