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Gender differences in the associations between childhood adversity and psychopathology in the general population.

PURPOSE: To explore gender differences of the associations between childhood adversity (CA) subtypes and psychiatric symptoms in the general population.

METHODS: Data of 791 participants were retrieved from a general population twin cohort. The Symptom Checklist-90 Revised (SCL-90) and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire were used to assess overall psychopathology with nine symptom domains scores and total CA with exposure to five CA subtypes, respectively. The associations between CA and psychopathology were analyzed in men and women separately and were subsequently compared.

RESULTS: Total CA was associated with total SCL-90 and all symptom domains without significant gender differences. However, the analyses of CA subtypes showed that the association between emotional abuse and total SCL-90 was stronger in women compared to men [χ2 (1) = 4.10, P = 0.043]. Sexual abuse was significantly associated with total SCL-90 in women, but emotional neglect and physical neglect were associated with total SCL-90 in men. Exploratory analyses of CA subtypes and SCL-90 subdomains confirmed the pattern of gender-specific associations. In women, emotional abuse was associated with all symptom domains, and sexual abuse was associated with all except phobic anxiety and interpersonal sensitivity. In men, emotional neglect was associated with depression, and physical neglect was associated with phobic anxiety, anxiety, interpersonal sensitivity, obsessive-compulsive, paranoid ideation, and hostility subdomains.

CONCLUSION: CA is a trans-syndromal risk factor regardless of gender. However, differential associations between CA subtypes and symptom manifestation might exist. Abuse might be particularly associated with psychopathology in women, whereas neglect might be associated with psychopathology in men.

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