Parents' addiction, unemployment and divorce are risk factors for childhood abuse

Adults who had parents who struggled with addiction, unemployment and divorce are 10 times more likely to have been victims of childhood physical abuse, according to a new study prepared by the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

The study, which was published online this week in the journal Child: Care, Health & Development, found that more than one-third of adults who grew up in homes where all three were present reported they had been physically abused by someone close to them while under the age of 18 and still living at home.

The results found that only 3.4 per cent of those with none of the three risk factors reported they had been physically abused. However, with each additional risk factor experienced, the prevalence of childhood increased dramatically.

Approximately 13 per cent of those with one risk factor reported childhood physical abuse (CPA). The prevalence of child physical abuse was between 8% and 11% for those who had experienced parental alone or parental alone but increased to between 18% and 19% for those who experienced parental addictions alone. Between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of those who had experienced two risk factors reported they had been abused in childhood. Among those with all three risk factors, the prevalence of CPA was between 36 and 41 per cent, representing a ten-fold increase from the 3.4 per cent reported by those without any of these risk factors. The study was based on two representative community samples, one study conducted in 1995 and the second, with a different sample, in 2005. Each survey included approximately 13,000 Canadians aged 18 and older.

"We were so astonished by the magnitude of the association between the combination of these three risk factors and child abuse in the 1995 survey that we replicated the analysis with a different sample from a 2005 survey," says co-author Jami-Leigh Sawyer, a University of Toronto doctoral student and a social worker at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. "The findings in both data sets were remarkably consistent and very worrisome."

The study's findings have important clinical implications for pediatricians, family doctors, social workers and other healthcare providers working with children and their families, says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Chair at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Department of Family and Community Medicine. "It appears that children from homes with parental addictions, parental unemployment and parental divorce are particularly vulnerable to abuse. Such knowledge will hopefully improve the targeting of screening for childhood physical abuse."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Physical abuse may raise risk of suicidal thoughts

Apr 24, 2012

The study, published online this month in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, found that approximately one-third of adults who were physically abused in childhood had seriously considered taking their own li ...

Parental divorce linked to suicidal thoughts

Jan 19, 2011

Adult children of divorce are more likely to have seriously considered suicide than their peers from intact families, suggests new research from the University of Toronto

Childhood physical abuse linked to peptic ulcers

Feb 10, 2011

Victims of childhood physical abuse are more than twice as likely to develop ulcers than people who were not abused as children, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto.

Recommended for you

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

Nov 21, 2014

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

Nov 21, 2014

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

Could there be a bright side to depression?

Nov 21, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A group of researchers studying the roots of depression has developed a test that leads them closer to the idea that depression may actually be an adaptation meant to help people cope with ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Pediopal
2 / 5 (8) Dec 21, 2012
REALLY??? Research money well spent indeed.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.