The impact of individual forms of childhood maltreatment on health behavior

Carie S Rodgers, Ariel J Lang, Charlene Laffaye, Leslie E Satz, Timothy R Dresselhaus, Murray B Stein
Child Abuse & Neglect 2004, 28 (5): 575-86

OBJECTIVE: This study examines the unique contribution of five types of maltreatment (sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect) to adult health behaviors as well as the additive impact of exposure to different types of childhood maltreatment.

METHOD: Two hundred and twenty-one women recruited from a VA primary care clinic completed questionnaires assessing exposure to childhood trauma and adult health behaviors. Regression models were used to test the relationship between childhood maltreatment and adult health behaviors.

RESULTS: Sexual and physical abuse appear to predict a number of adverse outcomes; when other types of maltreatment are controlled, however, sexual abuse and physical abuse do not predict as many poor outcomes. In addition, sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and emotional neglect in childhood were all related to different adult health behaviors. The more types of childhood maltreatment participants were exposed to the more likely they were to have problems with substance use and risky sexual behaviors in adulthood.

IMPLICATIONS: The results indicate that it is important to assess a broad maltreatment history rather than trying to relate specific types of abuse to particular adverse health behaviors or health outcomes.

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