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Theme 4 Socio-emotional development across cultures  > project 2 & 3


Child Maltreatment: identifying 
Socio-Emotional Consequences 

Project leader: Monique Pfaltz (Mid Sweden University, Sweden; University of Zurich, Switzerland)

Project group: see below.

The aim of our projects is to identify socio-emotional consequences of child maltreatment including cross-cultural aspects and to initiate collaborative research, by bringing together researchers from around the world. More in particular, we aim at identifying alterations in specific communicative and social skills (e.g., setting boundaries, recognizing other’s emotional state from non-verbal signals, expressing one’s own emotions during social interactions), which might underlie interpersonal difficulties and relationship problems that many individuals with a history of child maltreatment are facing. This research shall serve as a basis for the development of clinical interventions that aim at improving social relationships in affected individuals.

Project 1. Impact of Child Maltreatment on Preferred Interpersonal Distance

PI: Monique Pfaltz


Previous studies point to a relationship between general trauma history and a larger preferred interpersonal distance (as one aspect of non-verbal interpersonal signals that might affect the long-term social functioning of affected individuals). Regarding child maltreatment, initial evidence suggests that those with a history of maltreatment prefer larger interpersonal distances towards strangers.

Aims and methods:  This aim of this project is to assess whether this finding can be replicated in different cultures and whether adults with various levels of child maltreatment also prefer larger distances towards close others. Assessment of preferred interpersonal distance and collection of questionnaire data (i.a., on trauma history) were conducted online, in more than 10 languages.


Current status: Data collection has been completed in February 2022. More than 3600 people have participated. We are currently analyzing their data.

Results:  Results are expected to be available mid 2022.

Project group: Vandhana Acha, V-COPE Clinic (India) – Antje-Kathrin Allgaier, Universitaet der Bundeswehr Muenchen (Germany) - Adrián Arévalo, National University of San Marcos (Peru) - Fredrik Åhs, Mid Sweden University (Sweden) - Rahel Bachem, Universtiy of Zurich (Switzerland) - Eleonora Bartoli, Goethe University of Frankfurt (Germany) – Habte Belete, Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia) – Tilahun Belete Mossie, Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia) - Azi Berzengi, University of East Anglia (UK) – Jaqueline Bukaka, University of Kinshasa (République Démocratique du Congo) – Polly Cheng, McGill University (Canada) – Deniz Ceylan Tufan Özalp, Koc University (Turkey) – Daniel Dukes, University of Fribourg (Switzerland) - Aziz Essadek, University of Lorraine (France) - Natalia E. Fares-Otero, CIBERSAM, Hospital Clínic Barcelona (Spain) – Rashmi Gupta, Indian Institute of Technology (India) – Shilat Haim-Nachum, Bar-Ilan University (Israel) - Sarah Halligan, University of Bath (UK) – Naved Iqbal, Jamia Millia Islamia (India) – Einat Levy-Gigi, Bar-Ilan University (Israel) – Jana Javakhishvili, Ilia Statet Uiversity (Georgia) – Stefen Jensen, University of Rwanda (Rwanda) – Laura Jobson, Monash University (Australia) – Saman Kamari, Shiraz University (Iran) – Rachel Langevin, McGill University (Canada) – Antonia Lüönd, University of Zurich (Switzerland) – Nino Makhashvili, Ilia State University (Georgia) – Chantal Martin Soelch, University of Fribourg (Switzerland) - Tanja Michael, Saarland University (Germany) – Vida Mirabolfathi, Kharazmi University and Institute for Cognitive Science Studies (Iran) – Annalaura Nocentini, University of Florence (Italy) – Misari Oe, Kurume University (Japan) – Helena Örnkloo, Mid Sweden University (Sweden) - Miranda Olff, Amsterdam UMC (Netherlands) - Monique Pfaltz, Mid Sweden University (Sweden) and University of Zurich (Switzerland) – Krithika Prakash, Eastern Michigan University (United States) – Vijaya Raghavan, Schizophrenia Research Foundation (India)- Elie Rahmé, Université Saint Esprit de Kaslik (Lebanon) – Muniarajan Ramakrishnan, Mid Sweden University (Sweden) – Vedat Sar, Koc University (Turkey) - Wataru Sato, Kyoto University (Japan) – Ulrich Schnyder, University of Zurich (Switzerland) – Roxanne Sopp, Saarland University (Germany) – Rosario Spencer, Universidad de Talca (Chile) – Georgina Spies, Stellenbosch University (South Africa) - Soraya Seedat, Stellenbosch University (South Africa) – Tanya Tandon, Indian Institute of Technology (India) – Dany Laure Wadji, University of Fribourg (Switzerland) - Rachel Wamser-Nanney, University of Missouri-St.Louis (United States) – Nadine Zalaket, Université Saint Esprit de Kaslik (Lebanon).

Picture theme Emotion Regulation- Moniqu


Project 2. Child Maltreatment through a Cross-Cultural Lens 

PIs: Misari Oe, Naved Iqbal

While the WHO definition of child maltreatment covers a wide range of behaviors, thresholds for what is considered child maltreatment vary in different cultures. For example, in some countries, corporal punishment is considered a valid parenting practice while it is not in many others. Consequently, children in the former countries might be more exposed to physical violence and experience more negative repercussions on their development and mental health. Yet, studies are showing conflicting results in that regard.

Aims: The aim of this project is threefold. First, it aims to better understand the cross-cultural variations in what constitutes child maltreatment and in the impact of parenting behaviors on children’s development and mental health. Second, it aims to identify the most appropriate means to assess child maltreatment and its effects on mental health in different cultures. Third, it aspires to identify culture-specific protective factors, increasing resilience in at-risk populations.

Current status: The research group has implemented a pilot project in Cameroon, Canada, Germany, and Japan. This project was awarded by the Internal SSHD Grant of McGill University. An online survey with questionnaires on social norms of child maltreatment, childhood maltreatment history, mental health outcomes, and resiliency measures has been conducted. Data collection has been completed in four countries and data analysis is in progress. The pilot project will be implemented in several additional countries, including India. We are planning to develop a new project by creating research questions based on the results of the pilot project. Grant applications will be drafted in parallel.

Results:  Preliminary results of the pilot study comparing Canada and Japan will be presented at the ISPCAN Congress (Quebec City, Canada) on March 27-30, 2022, and the Canadian Psychological Association’s 83rd Annual National Convention (Calgary, Canada) on June 17-19, 2022. 

Our preliminary findings show that Japanese appear more tolerant than Canadian participants of various behaviors aligned with current definitions of neglect, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and exposure to domestic violence. Furthermore, interesting associations emerged between countries, social norms, and self-reported experiences of maltreatment. For example, a greater tolerance of neglectful behaviors is associated with more experiences of sexual abuse for Canadians. Similarly, culture-specific associations emerged for social norms, experiences of maltreatment, and mental health outcomes. For example, a greater tolerance of emotionally maltreating behaviors is related to lower levels of psychological distress in Japanese participants. For more information, you can attend these presentations:  

Bartoli, E. et al.; Culture-specific Variations in Social Norms and Exposure to Maltreating Behaviors in Japan and Canada, ISPCAN Congress.

Langevin, R. et al.: Cultural norms about child maltreatment and child maltreatment experiences in Canada and Japan: A comparative study, CPA Conference. 

Cheng, P. et al.: Social norms and child maltreatment experiences and their association with mental health outcomes in Canada and Japan, CPA Conference. 


We collaborate with other researchers from the Global Collaboration ( to ensure that data arising from our projects are FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable).

How to get involved

Our project and subproject groups are meeting online, on a regular basis. It is still possible to get involved in our ongoing projects and to also suggest and develop future projects.

For more information, please contact Monique Pfaltz:

Online workshop Feb 1st 2023 

Three years ago, we started to build up a group of international researchers who are joining forces to work on cross-cultural projects aiming to understand, prevent and treat the socio-emotional causes and consequences of child maltreatment as part of the global collaboration on traumatic stress ( Since then, our group has grown and currently involves members from over 20 countries from around the world (


Given that we have successfully completed some of our initial projects (e.g., Pfaltz et al., 2022, Haim-Nachum, et al., 2022), we are currently defining new projects that we will be working on during the coming years. As part of this process, we will conduct an:


Online workshop, Feb 1st 2023 (11 AM– 3 PM CET)

We aimed to bring together researchers who are already part of our group with researchers interested in joining us. Both junior and senior researchers who have experience with either experimental research methods, interactive (groups, couples, families) or interventional study designs were welcome. We particularly welcomed researchers from continents that are currently still a bit under-represented in our group, more specifically colleagues from Africa, South America, Australia, and Asia.


The aims of the workshop were to define common topics of interest and to come up with concrete next steps and projects to be conducted at single or multiple study sites. Prior to the workshop, a brief questionnaire was sent to all participants to identify their interests, previous experience, topics they would like to address and other workshop participants with whom they would like to connect. During the workshop, we worked in small groups (depending on the replies to our questionnaire, one group might, e.g. focus on basic research looking at transgenerational continuity of child maltreatment and its consequences, while another group might develop a project on online interventions to improve social well-being).


For any questions, please contact Monique Pfaltz

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