Child maltreatment and resilience in adulthood: a protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2023;14(2):2282826. doi: 10.1080/20008066.2023.2282826. Epub 2023 Nov 27.


Background: Although child maltreatment (CM) has been linked to health problems and poor psychosocial functioning, not all individuals exposed to CM develop or experience negative consequences later in life. This suggests that some individuals show resilience after being exposed to CM. However, conclusions have been limited by inconsistent findings across different CM subtypes and resilience domains.Objective: To develop a protocol for conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis to quantify associations between CM (overall and its subtypes) and resilience (global and its multiple domains) in adulthood, and to examine moderators and mediators of these associations.Method: PubMed, PsycINFO, Embase, Scopus, and Web of Science will be searched to identify relevant studies on the association between CM (exposure) and resilience (outcome) in adults (≥ 18 years). Data will be screened and extracted by at least two independent reviewers. The methodological quality of the included studies will be independently assessed with a modified version of the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS). If deemed viable, a meta-analysis will be conducted using a random effects model. Heterogeneity of evidence will be estimated with the I2 statistic, and publication bias will be assessed. The effects of potential moderators (e.g. timing and severity of CM, age, sex, family cohesion, socio-economic status, country/region) will be analysed using meta-regression and subgroup analyses, and meta-analytical structural equation modelling will be employed to synthesise indirect mediation effects. Candidate moderators and mediators (e.g. genetic factors, brain functioning, attachment style, personality traits, physical activity, and social support) will be also examined qualitatively.Conclusions: This protocol will facilitate a systematic review and meta-analysis that has the potential to enhance our knowledge about the association between CM exposure in early life and resilience in adulthood. Understanding associations and underlying mechanisms between CM and resilience is potentially important in informing prevention and interventions to sustain health and improve outcomes among adults with a history of CM.PROSPERO registration: CRD42023394120.

Keywords: Childhood trauma; Trauma infantil; acoso escolar; adaptive coping; adultos; adults; afrontamiento adaptativo; apoyo social; bienestar psicológico; bullying; estrés traumático; funcionamiento resiliente; mental health; neglect; negligencia; psychological well-being; resilient functioning; salud mental; social support; traumatic stress; 童年期创伤;忽视; 霸凌;创伤性应激;适应性应对;心理健康韧性功能;心理幸福感;社会支持;成人.

Plain language summary

In this study protocol, we propose to quantitatively summarise the existing literature on the relationship between child maltreatment and resilience with regard to mental health consequences and psychosocial functioning later in life.This preregistered systematic review and meta-analysis will establish the procedures to investigate associations between an overall classification of child maltreatment and its different associated subtypes, and a global/trait classification of resilience and its different domains in adults.This protocol will further determine the analytical approach to explore and summarise effect moderators and mediators of the association between child maltreatment and resilience in adulthood.The resulting synthesis, that will be based on this protocol, could enhance our understanding of the strength of the association between child maltreatment and resilience and inform prevention strategies and clinical interventions to improve health and psychosocial functioning in adult survivors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Social Support
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic