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Maladaptive fantasy predicts negatively distorted self and other mental representation: A consideration of child abuse from psycho/neuro/biological perspectives

Shoichi SHIOTA, Shin-ichi OURA, Mariko MATSUMOTO

Article ID: 2561
Vol 9, Issue 7, 2024, Article identifier:

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Child abuse is a prevalent public health issue with one half of children worldwide experiencing some form of violence. Child abuse is associated with a myriad of impacts across the lifespan such as mental and physical illness, academic performance, and employment. For this reason, individual’s psychological functions such as emotional regulation, autobiographical memory and self, and psychological connection with others are changed by child abuse. However, to best of our knowledge, there is still much unknowns about the mechanism underlying these changes. In this article, we focusing on the relationships between fantasy and metacognition and its biological and neurological bases, and functional change of them caused by child abuse. Then, we also explain the effects of them for other psychological function in abused individual. In case of child abuse, there is suggests that children immerse themselves fantastic world in order to escape from the tragic experiences that are repeated on a daily living by the caregiver. In this process, functions that recognize the real world, such as metacognition, not functioning. Rather, there is consider that children refuse to develop metacognition in order to avoid realizing the truth of the real world. As results, it does not seem to develop child’s emotional regulative function such as metacognition. The experience of being continuously hurt by a caregiver and the image of being hurt are thought to change to maladaptive fantasy or autobiographical shame memory. Then, both maladaptive fantasy and autobiographical shame memory are lead to formed negatively distorted and unstable mental images of self and other.  Finally, we discuss two potential new interventions such as picture book and breathing technique for abused children.


child abuse; maladaptive fantasy; metacognition; shame memory; attachment

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