Study finds chronic child abuse strong indicator of negative adult experiences

May 15, 2012 By Jessica Martin, Washington University in St. Louis
This chart illustrates the individual childhood and adult outcomes according to the number of reports that occurred before the event of interest. Because it was possible for some children to enter the study period with a pre-existing condition, these are indicated as gray or black bars with the legend indicating the outcome occurred “before the study.” Chronicity is associated with increasing risk for all but child maltreatment perpetration, violent delinquency, and head or brain injury. In these cases, there is a slight decline in prevalence for the highest category compared with middle categories, but in all cases having reports was associated with higher rates of outcomes.

(Medical Xpress) -- Child abuse or neglect are strong predictors of major health and emotional problems, but little is known about how the chronicity of the maltreatment may increase future harm apart from other risk factors in a child’s life.

In a new study published in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics, Melissa Jonson-Reid, PhD, child welfare expert and a professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, looked at how chronic maltreatment impacted the future health and behavior of children and adults.

The study tracked children by number of child maltreatment reports (zero to four or more) and followed the children into early adulthood, by which time some of the children had become parents.

The study sought to determine how well the number of child maltreatment reports predicted poor outcomes in adolescence, such as delinquency, substance abuse in the teen years or getting a sexually transmitted disease. 

“For every measure studied, a more chronic history of child maltreatment reports was powerfully predictive of worse outcomes,” Jonson-Reid says.

“For most outcomes, having a single maltreatment report put children at a 20 percent to 50 percent higher risk than non-maltreated comparison children.

In addition, a series of adult outcomes were tracked to see if the chronicity of maltreatment still mattered after controlling for the poor outcomes in adolescence. Adult outcomes included adult substance abuse or growing up and having children whom they then maltreated.

“In models of adult outcomes, children with four or more reports were about least twice as likely to later abuse their own children and have contact with the mental health system, even when controlling for the negative outcomes during adolescence.”

Jonson-Reid says that there appears to be good reason to put resources into preventing ongoing maltreatment.

“Successfully interrupting chronic may well reduce risk of a wide range of other costly child and adolescent health and behavioral problems,” she says.

Jonson-Reid cites a recently published Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study estimating lifetime costs for a single year’s worth of children reported for maltreatment at $242 billion. (www.sciencedirect.com/science/ … ii/S0145213411003140)

“What our study illustrates is that these costs are even more likely to accrue for children who continue to be re-reported,” she says.

The study also found that maltreatment predicts a range of negative adolescent outcomes, and those adolescent outcomes then predict poor adult outcomes.

“If the poor outcomes in adolescence can be dealt with effectively, then later adult outcomes may also be forestalled,” Jonson-Reid says.

“Our findings could therefore be interpreted as supporting many current evidence-based interventions that seek to improve behavioral and social functioning among and adolescents who have experienced trauma like abuse or .”

Jonson-Reid co-authored the study, “Child and Adult Outcomes of Chronic Child ,” with fellow Brown School faculty members Patricia L. Kohl, PhD, associate professor, and F. Brett Drake, PhD, professor.

More information: To view the full study visit: pediatrics.aappublications.org … s.2011-2529.abstract

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

NeuroNext biomarker study explores natural history of infantile-onset SMA

January 9, 2018
Research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to define the natural history of infantile-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been "critical" to accelerate the development of effective therapies and hasten ...

No link between childhood lead levels, later criminality

December 27, 2017
(HealthDay)— Exposure to higher levels of lead during early childhood can affect neurological development—but does that mean affected kids are doomed to delinquency?

Early puberty in girls may take mental health toll

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A girl who gets her first menstrual period early in life—possibly as young as 7—has a greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behaviors that last at least into her 20s, a new study suggests.

Technology not taking over children's lives despite screen-time increase

December 21, 2017
With children spending increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University ...

Higher blood sugar in early pregnancy raises baby's heart-defect risk

December 15, 2017
Higher blood sugar early in pregnancy raises the baby's risk of a congenital heart defect, even among mothers who do not have diabetes, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

0 comments

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.