Child Maltreatment: identifying 
Socio-Emotional Consequences 

Project 2: Socio-emotional development across cultures


Project group

​PI: Monique Pfaltz (University of Zurich, Switzerland).​


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) - Deniz Ceylan Tufan Özalp, Koc University (Turkey) – Daniel Dukes, University of Fribourg (Switzerland) - Aziz Essadek, University of Lorraine (France) - Natalia Elena Fares Otero, Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (Spain) - Shilat Haim-Nachum, Bar-Ilan University (Israel) - Sarah Halligan, University of Bath (UK) - Einat Levy-Gigi, Bar-Ilan University (Israel) - Laura Jobson, Monash University (Australia) - Rachel Langevin, McGill University (Canada) – Antonia Lüönd, University of Zurich (Switzerland) - Chantal Martin Soelch, University of Fribourg (Switzerland) - Tanja Michael, Saarland University (Germany) – Vida Mirabolfathi, Kharazmi University and Institute for Cognitive Science Studies (Iran) - Misari Oe, Kurume University Hospital (Japan) – Helena Örnkloo, Mid Sweden University (Sweden) - Miranda Olff, Amsterdam UMC (Netherlands) - Monique Pfaltz, University of Zurich (Switzerland) – Krithika Prakash, Eastern Michigan University (United States) – Vijaya Raghavan,Schizophrenia Research Foundation (India)- 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)- Georgina Spies, Stellenbosch University (South Africa) - Soraya Seedat, Stellenbosch University (South Africa) - Dany Laure Wadji, University of Fribourg (Switzerland) - Rachel Wamser-Nanney, University of Missouri-St.Louis (United States).


The aim of our projects is to identify socio-emotional consequences of child maltreatment including crosscultural 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 relationship in affected individuals.


​Project 2.1 Impact of Child Maltreatment on Preferred Interpersonal Distance 

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 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. This project assesses 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) are conducted online, in various languages.


Current status

We are currently collecting data and the questionnaire is available in more than 10 languages. By supporting this project you will ultimately help to develop culture-sensitive interventions for those affected by childhood maltreatment.


Please use the following link to participate on your PC or laptop (participation by smartphone or tablet is not possible):

Flyer Moniques CM-SEC.png

Project 2.2 Child Maltreatment through a Cross-Cultural Lens 

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. 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 is preparing to implement a pilot project in Cameroon, Canada, Germany and Japan. The current pilot project has been awarded by the Internal SSHD Grant of McGill University. Questionnaires have already been translated and back-translated (when adaptations were not available) and entered in Qualtrics, the online platform that will be used for data collection. At the time being, McGill University has received the approval of the Research Ethics Board and is starting the recruitment of the participants in Canada. In the other partner Universities, submissions to the local institutional Ethics Boards are still ongoing or in progress.

Next steps: Data collection is planned to start mid 2021. The pilot project aims at providing first evidence that will be used to plan a broader study, where other countries representative of different regions of the world will be involved. Interested collaborators or co-investigators are invited to get in touch with the current members of this research group. During summer 2021, the group will be working on other grant applications.


First results of projects 2.1 and 2.2 are expected to be available by September 2021 and by the end of 2021.


We will collaborate with other researchers from the Global Collaboaration ( 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: Monique.Pfaltz-AT-