Textbook Reviews

Authors of recent reviews of Introductory Psychology and Abnormal Psychology textbooks have concluded that most textbooks should improve their coverage of trauma and its impact, particularly child maltreatment (CM) and its relationship to psychological, physical, social, cognitive, academic, legal, and economic difficulties. Some books present only one side of controversial topics and/or emphasize sensational cases more than the empirical literature about trauma. Professors may find it useful to read these reviews to inform their selection of textbooks for their classes.

Coverage of Child Maltreatment in Abnormal Psychology Textbooks: Reviewing the Adequacy of the Content [1]

“Abnormal psychology courses introduce undergraduate students to the range, causes, and treatments of psychological disorders. These courses present important opportunities to instruct students about disorders and treatments associated with childhood maltreatment (CM) as well as its prevalence. Little research has examined the adequacy with which abnormal psychology textbooks present information about CM. The present study reviewed the CM content of 10 abnormal psychology textbooks. The content was assessed in terms of the number of times CM was mentioned, the number of psychological disorders linked to CM, and the number of CM-related research citations. In addition, the authors conducted a content analysis to examine the significance, depth of detail, and organizational structure of the information provided within the sections of text addressing CM. There were significant differences in scores and the accuracy of coverage of CM across textbooks. Most of the textbooks lack key information on CM. The information presented in many textbooks is not consistent with current research and is overly focused on controversies. These findings are concerning because research has linked many psychological disorders and problematic outcomes to CM, but this information is not adequately conveyed to students via abnormal psychology textbooks. The authors make recommendations for improving the coverage of CM in abnormal psychology textbooks.”

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Grades for the Adequacy and Accuracy of Coverage of Child Maltreatment (CM) in 10 Top-Selling Abnormal Psychology Textbooks

Based on Wilgus et al. (2015), a grading summary sheet for the adequacy and accuracy of coverage of child maltreatment (CM) in the 10 top-selling abnormal psychology textbooks was created. An “A” grade was given to books with consistent top 3 or 4 rankings without any evidence of errors or possible bias in covering child maltreatment (CM). Bs were given to books with moderate or inconsistent rankings and/or minor suggestion of possible bias or somewhat inaccurate portrayal of some aspect of CM. Cs were given to books with moderate or inconsistent rankings and moderate evidence of inaccuracies or possible bias. Ds were given to books with moderate, low, or inconsistent rankings and more serious suggestion of inaccuracies or possible bias. Fs were given to books with consistently poor rankings and/or evidence of serious inaccuracies or possible bias. Please see a table outline of the results below, taken from the Grades for the Adequacy and Accuracy of Coverage of Child Maltreatment (CM) in 10 Top-selling Abnormal Psychology Textbooks.

Author(s)

Year Published

DSM Version

Grade

Reasons for Grade

Barlow & Durand

2012

DSM-IV-TR

D

  • Consistently poor ranking for mentions of child maltreatment (CM) (rank = 8), CM citations (rank = 8), and CM links with psychological disorders (rank = 6).
  • Fails to present research documenting that recovered memory of CM is as accurate as is continuously recalled CM.
  • Fails to present research showing that  “recovered memory” patients scored lower on suggestibility than did a psychiatric control group.
  • Fails to present studies that have found corroborating evidence of severe CM in individuals with dissociative identity disorder (DID).
  • Only text to discuss the False Memory Syndrome Foundation; describes it as a group whose goal it is to educate the public and professionals about “false memories” of child abuse.

Beidel, Bulik, & Stanley

2014

DSM-5

D

  • Average ranking for CM mentions (rank = 5) and CM citations (rank = 5), and poor with CM links (rank = 8).
  • Presents the second lowest number of psychological disorders (N = 6) that are linked to CM.
  • Fails to present research documenting that recovered memory of CM is as accurate as is continuously recalled memories of CM.
  • Dedicates 5 pages to reviewing the recovered memory controversy, yet the authors do not equally present both sides of the controversy.
  • Authors contend that some theorists conclude that anyone who experiences dissociative symptoms must have been abused, yet do not substantiate this claim, which is contradictory to theories of dissociation articulated by leading dissociation experts.
  • Fails to present studies that have found corroborating evidence of severe CM in individuals with dissociative identity disorder (DID).
  • Fails to present studies that show that treatment of DID is associated with consistent improvements in symptoms and functioning.
  • Inaccurately claims that dissociative identity disorder (DID) is rare.  This is not substantiated by research.

Butcher, Mineka,

& Hooley

2013

DSM-IV-TR

C+

  • Excellent ranking for mentions of CM (rank = 1) and CM citations (rank = 1), but lower on CM links with psychological disorders (rank = 5).
  • Incorrectly states that people typically recall childhood abuse while in therapy with a therapist who believes repressed memories of CSA are a very common cause of psychopathology.  Research does not support this.
  • Inaccurately claims that DID is rare.  This is not substantiated by research.
  • Emphasizes controversies about CM at the expense of informing students about the links between CM and psychopathology.

Comer

2014

DSM-5

C-

  • Consistently poor ranking for mentions of child maltreatment (CM) (rank = 7) and CM links with psychological disorders (rank = 7), although high on CM citations (rank = 2).
  • Emphasizes controversial cases related to CM at the expense of informing students about the prevalence, impact and treatment of CM (e.g., dedicated 19 sentences on the Sybil case).
  • Some readers may be insulted by a joke about repression, particularly if they have experienced CM.

Kring, Johnson,

Davison, & Neale

2014

DSM-5

B-

  • Consistently very good ranking for mentions of CM (rank = 2), for CM citations (rank = 3) and CM links with psychological disorders (rank = 3).
  • Fails to review most of the research showing that treatment of DD is associated with consistent improvements in symptoms and functioning. States that dissociative disorders (DD) treatment has potentially negative effects and references treatment approaches that are not advocated by DD experts (e.g., “facilitated communication”).
  • Discusses controversial meta-analysis about child sexual abuse without adequately discussing the study’s methodological weaknesses and wide condemnation of the authors’ conclusions.

Lyons & Martin

2014

DSM-5

C

  • Inconsistent rankings: excellent for CM link mentions (rank = 1), but fair for CM mentions (rank = 6) and poor for CM citations (rank = 9).
  • Discusses controversial meta-analysis about child sexual abuse without adequately discussing the study’s methodological weaknesses and wide condemnation of the authors’ conclusions.

Nevid, Rathus, & Greene

*Winner of APA Division 56’s Best Abnormal Psychology Textbook Presentation of Child Maltreatment Award

2014

DSM-5

A

  • Consistent very good ranking for mentions of CM (rank = 3) and CM links (rank = 2), but only fair on CM citations (rank = 7).
  • Presents the largest number of psychological disorders (N = 13) that are linked to CM.
  • Excellent section dedicated to presenting information about CM.
  • This is the only textbook that reviews several studies that show that DID treatment is associated with consistent improvements in symptoms and functioning.

Oltmanns & Emery

2012

DSM-IV-TR

D

  • Consistent average ranking for mentions of CM (rank = 4), CM citations (rank = 4) and CM links (rank = 4).
  • Emphasizes controversies about CM at the expense of informing students about the links between CM and psychopathology.
  • Fails to present research documenting that recovered memory of CM is as accurate as is continuously recalled memories of CM.
  • Presents statements about the long-term impact of CM that are not well substantiated by research.  Example: Authors state that studies of the long-term effects of CM find little evidence of a consistent link with psychopathology (e.g., dissociation).  Considerable research contradicts this opinion.
  • This is the only book that recognizes that Munchausen-by-proxy is a form of child abuse.
  • Inaccurately claims that DID is rare.  This is not substantiated by research.
  • Fails to present studies that have found corroborating evidence of severe CM in individuals with DID while emphasizing the controversy about CM being the cause of DID.
  • States there is no systematic research on the effectiveness of any treatment for DD, despite there being many published studies and a meta-analysis about DD treatment.

Rosenberg & Kosslyn

2011

DSM-IV-TR

B-

  • Consistent very poor ranking for CM mentions (rank = 10) and CM links (rank = 9) but fair on CM citations (rank = 6).
  • Has a section dedicated to presenting information about CM.
  • Empirically sound presentation of statistics about the prevalence and impact of CM.
  • Cites research documenting corroborated history of severe CM in DID patients.
  • This is the one of the few texts that presents the impact of CM on attachment and the stress response system.

Whitbourne & Halgin

2014

DSM-5

F

  • Consistent very poor ranking for CM mentions (rank = 9), CM citations (rank = 10) and CM links (rank = 10).
  • Presents the lowest number of psychological disorders (N = 3) that are linked to CM.
  • Almost no discussion of CM.

An Analysis of Child Maltreatment Content in Introductory Psychology Textbooks [2]

“The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which introductory psychology textbooks cover child maltreatment and to evaluate how appropriately the information was presented. We randomly selected 15 introductory psychology textbooks from Koenig et al.’s (2004) Compendium of Introductory Psychology Texts. Three analyses included a subject index review, a content review, and a content analysis review. Although all of the textbooks covered the topic of child maltreatment in some fashion, they varied considerably in the specific forms of child maltreatment that they addressed. Furthermore, content that addressed child maltreatment consistently lacked appropriate emphasis and clear definitions. The results are discussed to enhance understanding regarding the most appropriate information on child maltreatment to include in introductory psychology textbooks.”

Coverage of Child Maltreatment and its Effects in Three Introductory Psychology Textbooks [3]

“It is clear that CM (child maltreatment) is associated with many psychological and medical illnesses (U.S. Department of Health, 2013a). If adverse childhood events were eradicated, 60% or more of the onset of mood, behavior and substance disorders in children would be prevented (Kessler et al., 2010). The books’ discussion of the etiology of disorders focuses heavily on biological and cognitive causes with little discussion of CM. When discussing those disorders with a particularly strong connection to CM, such as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), the textbooks provide lengthy coverage of the debate about whether CM causes DID without providing much review of the empirical literature linking CM to the development of DID.

Myers (2013) calls dissociative disorders bewildering and rare. He dedicates only a third of the space about DID to discussion of research showing it to be a valid disorder compared to the much larger space given to the views of those skeptical about DID. Weiten (2013) similarly refers to dissociative disorders as controversial and relatively uncommon. He cites an article that argued that scientific interest in DID has dwindled since the mid-1990s (Pope, Barry, Bodkin,& Hudson, 2006), despite empirically based reviews showing that research on DID continues to flourish around the globe (e.g., Dalenberg et al., 2007; Dalenberg et al., 2012; Dorahy et al., 2014). Hockenbury and Hockenbury (2013) state that dissociative disorders were rare until the 1970s when a surge occurred, suggesting, “that DID patients learned ‘how to behave like a multiple’ from media portrayals of sensational cases or by responding to their therapists’ suggestions” (pp. 589-590). Readers are left with the impression that DID is a disorder that is caused by suggestion and fantasy, contrary to research that shows that individuals with DID have brain activation patterns and psychological testing profiles that cannot be simulated by individuals feigning DID, and that only 1-3% of the variance in suggestibility is predicted by dissociation (reviewed in Dalenberg et al., 2012; Dorahy et al., 2014)” (p. 9).


[1] Wilgus, S. J., Packer, M. M., Lile-King, R., Miller-Perrin, C. L., & Brand, B. L. (2015). Coverage of child maltreatment in abnormal psychology textbooks: Reviewing the adequacy of the content. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. 

[2] Kissee, J. L., Isaacson, L. J., & Miller-Perrin, C. (2014). An analysis of child maltreatment content in introductory psychology textbooks. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 23(3), 215-228.

[3] Brand, B. L. & McEwen, L. E. (2014). Coverage of child maltreatment and its effects in three introductory psychology textbooks. Trauma Psychology News, 8-11.

[4] US Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). Child maltreatment. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/research-data-technology/statistics-research/child-maltreatment

[5] Kessler, R. C., McLaughlin, K. A., Green, J. G., Gruber, M. J., Sampson, N. A., Zaslavsky, A. M., … & Williams, D. R. (2010). Childhood adversities and adult psychopathology in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 197(5), 378-385.

[6] Myers, D. G. (2013). Psychology (10th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

[7] Weiten, W. (2013). Psychology: Themes and variations (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

[8] Pope, H. G., Barry, S., Bodkin, A., & Hudson, J. I. (2005). Tracking scientific interest in the dissociative disorders: A study of scientific publication output 1984–2003. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 75(1), 19-24.

[9] Dalenberg, C., Loewenstein, R., Spiegel, D., Brewin, C., Lanius, R., Frankel, S., … & Paulson, K. (2007). Scientific study of the dissociative disorders. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 76(6), 400-401.

[10] Dalenberg, C. J., Brand, B. L., Gleaves, D. H., Dorahy, M. J., Loewenstein, R. J., Cardeña, E., … & Spiegel, D. (2012). Evaluation of the evidence for the trauma and fantasy models of dissociation. Psychological Bulletin, 138(3), 550.

[11] Dorahy, M.J., Brand, B.L., Sar, V. Krüger, C., Stavropoulos, P.,
Martínez-Taboas, A.,… Middleton, M., (2014). Dissociative Identity Disorder: An empirical review. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 48(5), 402 – 417.

[12] Hockenbury, D. H. & Hockenbury, S. E. (2013). Psychology (6th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.