The Effect of Early Abuse and Neglect on Academic Achievement

Date of Graduation

Fall 1982


Master of Science in Education in Educational Administration


Counseling, Leadership, and Special Education

Committee Chair

Ruth Burgess


This study was conducted to determine the effect of abuse and neglect on the academic achievement of primary children in the areas of word analysis, vocabulary, reading, and math as measured by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Twenty-one students were selected from a total population of 36, 13 males and 8 females, who were reported as being abused or neglected with a matched groups of students who were not reported as being abused or neglected. The students were matched on sex, age, socioeconomic background, and I.Q. scores. Scores were compared to evaluate possible differences caused by abuse or neglect. The scores of the two groups were taken from the permanent records of each student using a coding system to assure confidentiality. The non-abused group was identified as Group A and the abused group was identified as Group B. Utilizing the student t-test, correlation coefficients were developed. The hypotheses stated that there would be no significant difference in the scores of students who had been abused or neglected and the scores of students who had not been abused or neglected in first grade and in second grade. A significant difference was found between the scores of the abused and neglected. The null hypotheses were rejected at the .05 level of significance. A post hoc study was conducted, which included a study from first to fourth grades, as well as an examination of the extraneous variables (i.e., age, sex, socioeconomic background, and intelligence quotient [I.Q.]). Linear regression was used to predict the relationship between word analysis, vocabulary, reading, math, and a composite score, as well as age, sex, socioeconomic background, and I.Q. scores. The grade one to grade two study revealed three interesting factors. In all the communicative areas, Group A scores increased as Group B scores decreased. Secondly, the change in the mean math score was 1.000, indicating that the mathematical abilities of each group were unaffected or affected equally; whereas the most communicative indicator, the vocabulary test, was most affected. The third area of interest was the negative correlation in all segments of test scores in Group B from grade one to grade two. Due to this fact, linear regression was performed. The regression coefficients did follow (at a lower level) the statistical correlation coefficients. Group A displayed higher regression and correlation coefficients than Group B with the exception of math. The examination of scores from third to fourth grades were limited to 11 test pairs due to the fact that several of the students were in the third grade and would not be tested until the following spring. This study included only the vocabulary, reading, and composite scores due to the high levels of significance in the grade one to grade two study. In the examination of the extraneous variables of socioeconomic background, age, sex, and I.Q. scores, the vocabulary scores were used as a statistical vehicle due to the high grade-to-grade, net group mean score differences. This study clearly indicated that abused and neglected children perform differently than their matched, non-abused peers. There is an indication that prevention, rather than treatment after the fact, should be an area of great concern.

Subject Categories

Educational Administration and Supervision


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