Mediating the relationship between childhood emotional maltreatment and psychological distress

The aim of the present study was to examine the mediating roles of emotion dysregulation and cognitive and behavioral avoidance in the relationship between childhood maltreatment and psychological distress. A total of 305 participants from a large public university volunteered to participate in exchange for course credit. Tests for mediation revealed that emotion dysregulation and cognitive and behavioral avoidance partially mediated the effect of childhood emotional maltreatment on psychological distress. When examined in separate analyses, 65% of the effect of maltreatment on distress is mediated through emotion dysregulation, while 39% of the effect is mediated through cognitive and behavioral avoidance. Given previous findings linking maltreatment to an increased risk for problematic emotional functioning, additional work on how to enhance resilience by improving emotion regulation skills and reducing avoidant behaviors among at-risk children and young adults is needed.