Metacognitive beliefs and childhood adversities: an overview of the literature

Author information
  1. Department of Psychiatry & Psychology, School for Mental Health & Neuroscience , Maastricht University Medical Center , Maastricht , The Netherlands.
  2. Department of Health Sciences , University of Florence , Florence , Italy.
  3. Studi Cognitivi , Cognitive Psychotherapy School and Research Center , Milano , Italy.
  4. Department of Psychology , Sigmund Freud University , Milano , Italy.
  5. School of Applied Sciences , London South Bank University , London , UK.
  6. Psicoterapia Cognitiva e Ricerca , Cognitive Psychotherapy School , Milano , Italy.
Within the Self-Regulatory Executive Function theory, emerging data suggest that unhelpful metacognitive beliefs might be associated with exposure to early adversities, however the evidence is still sparse and inconclusive. This study aimed to conduct an overview of the literature to evaluate if exposure to childhood adversities might be associated with the presence of unhelpful metacognitive beliefs. A comprehensive research was conducted on PubMed, Science Direct, Google Scholar from inception to May 2017. The search terms used were: ‘childhood adversity/childhood abuse/childhood neglect/childhood loss event’ AND ‘metacognition/metacognitive beliefs’. A manual search of reference lists was run. Five studies were identified: three on psychiatric patients, two on the general population. Findings suggest that: (a) exposure to childhood abuse or childhood neglect might be associated with unhelpful metacognitive beliefs in adulthood; (b) early adversities are more frequently associated with negative beliefs, than other metacognitive beliefs; (c) metacognitive beliefs seem to mediate the association between childhood adversities and, repetitive thinking and negative affect. In conclusion, metacognitive beliefs might be involved in the association between early adversities and negative emotions. Interventions able to identify and reduce metacognitive beliefs associated to childhood adversities could be considered for treating the emotional consequences of childhood adversities.