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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Cumulative childhood maltreatment and its dose-response relation with adult symptomatology: Findings in a sample of adult survivors of sexual abuse

Iris M Steine, Dagfinn Winje, John H Krystal, Bjørn Bjorvatn, Anne Marita Milde, Janne Grønli, Inger Hilde Nordhus, Ståle Pallesen
Child Abuse & Neglect 2017, 65: 99-111
28131947
In the present study, we examined the role of cumulative childhood maltreatment experiences for several health related outcomes in adulthood, including symptoms of psychological distress as well as perceived social support and hardiness. The sample comprised adult survivors of sexual abuse (N=278, 95.3% women, mean age at first abusive incident=6.4 years). One-way ANOVAs revealed a statistically significant dose-response relation between cumulative childhood maltreatment scores and self-reported symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTSS), anxiety, depression, eating disorders, dissociation, insomnia, nightmare related distress, physical pain, emotional pain, relational problems, self-harm behaviors as well as on a measure of symptom complexity. Cumulative childhood maltreatment was also associated with lower levels of work functioning. An inverse dose-response relation was found for perceived social support and hardiness. Using a Bonferroni corrected alpha level, cumulative childhood maltreatment remained significantly associated with all outcome measures with the exception of eating disorder symptoms after controlling for abuse-related independent variables in hierarchical regression analyses. Results add to previous literature by showing that dose-response relation between cumulative childhood adversities and adult symptom outcomes could also be identified in a sample characterized by high exposure to adversities, and lends support to the notion put forth by previous authors that cumulative childhood adversities seem to be related to the severity of adult health outcomes in a rule-governed way.

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