Children's affective experiences and cognitive abilities have an impact on emotion understanding. However, their relative contribution, as well as the possibility of an interaction between them, has rarely been examined. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the influence of severe abuse and learning difficulties on simple and complex components of emotion understanding in late childhood and early adolescence. A total of 28 older children and young adolescents were selected for the study. Half of the participants had suffered from severe abuse, and half of these abused children additionally had learning disabilities. The remaining half of the sample had no history of abuse but were matched with the abused children on learning difficulties, age and gender. The participants’ emotion understanding was assessed with the Test of Emotion Comprehension (TEC). Results showed that (a) learning difficulties but not abuse had an impact on emotion understanding, (b) there was no interaction effect of abuse and learning difficulties on emotion understanding, and (b) the observed effects of learning difficulties were most apparent for the understanding of relatively complex components of emotion and not for simple components. The results are discussed in terms of their theoretical and practical implications.