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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Childhood emotional abuse and neglect as predictors of psychological and physical symptoms in women presenting to a primary care practice

Ilyse L Spertus, Rachel Yehuda, Cheryl M Wong, Sarah Halligan, Stephanie V Seremetis
Child Abuse & Neglect 2003, 27 (11): 1247-58
14637300

OBJECTIVE: There were two aims to this study: first to examine whether emotional abuse and neglect are significant predictors of psychological and somatic symptoms, and lifetime trauma exposure in women presenting to a primary care practice, and second to examine the strength of these relationships after controlling for the effects of other types of childhood abuse and trauma.

METHOD: Two-hundred and five women completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (Bernstein et al., 1994), Trauma History Questionnaire (Green, 1996), the Symptom Checklist-revised (Derogatis, 1997), and the Revised Civilian Mississippi Scale for posttraumatic stress disorder (Norris & Perilla, 1996) when presenting to their primary care physician for a visit. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine unique contributions of emotional abuse and neglect variables on symptom measures while controlling for childhood sexual and physical abuse and lifetime trauma exposure.

RESULTS: A history of emotional abuse and neglect was associated with increased anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress and physical symptoms, as well as lifetime trauma exposure. Physical and sexual abuse and lifetime trauma were also significant predictors of physical and psychological symptoms. Hierarchical multiple regressions demonstrated that emotional abuse and neglect predicted symptomatology in these women even when controlling for other types of abuse and lifetime trauma exposure.

CONCLUSIONS: Long-standing behavioral consequences may arise as a result of childhood emotional abuse and neglect, specifically, poorer emotional and physical functioning, and vulnerability to further trauma exposure.

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