A prospective examination of service use by abused and neglected children followed up into adulthood

Philip T Yanos, Sally J Czaja, Cathy Spatz Widom
Psychiatric Services: a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association 2010, 61 (8): 796-802

OBJECTIVE: This study sought to determine whether abused and neglected children are more likely than those without childhood maltreatment to use health and social services as adults and whether psychiatric status mediates or moderates the relationship.

METHODS: A prospective cohort design was used. Individuals with documented cases of physical and sexual abuse and neglect (ages 0-10) and nonvictimized children matched on age, sex, and race-ethnicity were interviewed in adulthood (mean age 41 years). Past-year service use (general medical, mental health, substance abuse, and social) was assessed during 2003-2004 interviews (maltreated group, N=458; control group, N=349). Psychiatric status (posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], drug abuse, and major depressive disorder) was assessed during 1989-1995 (mean age 29) by structured interview.

RESULTS: Individuals with histories of childhood abuse and neglect were significantly more likely than their control group counterparts to use mental health services (odds ratio [OR]=1.60, 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.04-2.45) and social services (OR=2.95, CI=2.19-3.97) in adulthood. Psychiatric status in young adulthood (PTSD and major depressive disorder) partially mediated the relationship between childhood maltreatment and use of mental health services, whereas major depression and drug abuse moderated the relationship between maltreatment and use of any services and general medical services.

CONCLUSIONS: In adulthood, individuals with documented histories of childhood abuse and neglect are more likely than persons without such histories to use some types of services, and psychiatric status mediates and moderates these relationships. Findings have implications for the provision of services to persons with childhood abuse and neglect.

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