JOURNAL ARTICLE

Resilience to adult psychopathology following childhood maltreatment: evidence from a community sample

Stephan Collishaw, Andrew Pickles, Julie Messer, Michael Rutter, Christina Shearer, Barbara Maughan
Child Abuse & Neglect 2007, 31 (3): 211-29
17399786

OBJECTIVE: Child abuse is an important risk for adult psychiatric morbidity. However, not all maltreated children experience mental health problems as adults. The aims of the present study were to address the extent of resilience to adult psychopathology in a representative community sample, and to explore predictors of a good prognosis.

METHODS: Data are drawn from a follow-up of the Isle of Wight study, an epidemiological sample assessed in adolescence and at midlife. Ratings of psychiatric disorder, peer relationships and family functioning were made in adolescence; adult assessments included a lifetime psychiatric history, personality and social functioning assessments, and retrospective reports of childhood sexual and physical abuse.

RESULTS: Ten percent of individuals reported repeated or severe physical or sexual abuse in childhood. Prospective measures revealed increased rates of adolescent psychiatric disorders in this group. Rates of adult psychopathology were also high. A substantial minority of abused individuals reported no mental health problems in adult life. Resilience of this kind was related to perceived parental care, adolescent peer relationships, the quality of adult love relationships, and personality style.

CONCLUSION: Good quality relationships across childhood, adolescence and adulthood appear especially important for adult psychological well being in the context of childhood abuse.

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