Latent Classes of Maltreatment: A Systematic Review and Critique

Child Maltreat. 2018 Feb;23(1):3-24. doi: 10.1177/1077559517728125. Epub 2017 Sep 6.


This article reviews and critically evaluates available research on latent classes of maltreatment. Three major databases (PsycINFO, Web of Knowledge, and Academic Search Complete) were used to identify studies on latent classes of maltreatment published before June 1, 2016. Of 365 potentially relevant studies, 14 met inclusion criteria for review. Our analysis was guided by the following questions: (a) What observed indicators are being used to model classes of maltreatment? (b) What are the most commonly identified classes of maltreatment? and (c) What are the predictors and outcomes of classes of maltreatment? Across the studies, findings demonstrated how person-centered methods (i.e., latent class/profile analysis) may facilitate the study of maltreatment by concurrently addressing several methodological limitations common to the study of maltreatment, while also addressing heterogeneity in experiences of maltreatment. After providing an account of existing trends within the literature employing person-centered methodology in the study of maltreatment, we offer a critique of extant research, note recent methodological developments, and make numerous recommendations for future research using person-centered approaches to understanding maltreatment.

Keywords: child maltreatment; latent profile analysis; methodology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / classification*
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / classification*
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / classification
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Humans