Researchers trace inner-city women's health issues to childhood traumas

July 1, 2013, Case Western Reserve University

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have traced chronic health problems of adult inner-city women to traumas from childhood abuse and neglect.

The latest findings, reported in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, complement prior studies of other socioeconomic groups and provide further evidence linking childhood mistreatment to serious issues as adults, said Meeyoung O. Min, assistant professor of social work at Case Western Reserve's Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the study.

Min's research team set out to understand specific factors that link to major that surface as adults. The research focused on inner-city who participated in a series of studies examining the development of children with prenatal exposure to cocaine.

After ruling out such factors as age, education and race, the researchers found that childhood trauma affects physical health in adulthood through lifetime drug dependence, smoking, more adverse life events and greater psychological distress.

The study also found that emotional struggles and life strains—such as financial and family-related issues—and being re-victimized as adults, resulted in health problems among relatively young urban women with a history of substance use.

By identifying the specific cause in this link, Min said, interventions may be developed to help women avoid behaviors that lead to dependence on tobacco and illegal substances, additional trauma and other mental health issues.

Also, Min said, health care providers should be aware of childhood maltreatment as a potential contributor to health problems, especially among women in urban, low-income communities. Min urged providers to use the findings to design more personalized treatment.

Given their role in fostering the emotional and cognitive development of their children, women with childhood trauma potentially place their children at risk by exposing them to a range of adverse life events and poor capacity for parenting.

"The cycle can repeat itself," she said.

The study's participants

The study examined data from 279 women who gave birth at a large, urban publicly subsidized, teaching hospital in Cleveland between 1994 and 1996. These women were among 404 mothers with newborns recruited for a series of studies on the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on their children's development.

About eight in 10 were African-American; about half used cocaine during pregnancy. One-fourth were married, 98 percent were of low socioeconomic status and about half were unemployed when they gave birth. They ranged in age from 31 to 54 (with an average age of 40) when their physical health was assessed, and more than a fourth had lost child custody.

Seven in 10 reported one or more childhood maltreatment: sexual abuse (32 percent), physical abuse (45 percent), emotional abuse (37 percent), emotional neglect (30 percent), and physical neglect (45 percent).

About half also reported a chronic medical condition, mainly hypertension, pulmonary diseases and pain syndromes.

The Assessment

The women provided information about their lives and children in five-hour research sessions when their children were 4, 6, 11 and 12 years old.

Information provided over time by the women included their personal accounts of the childhood trauma; responses from health surveys; diagnostic examination of addiction to alcohol, cocaine or marijuana; the kinds of everyday life stresses experienced; and psychological distress and the toll they took on their lives.

Min said the women were quite young to have such . The study raises concerns for their health and quality of life as they age, she said.

Explore further: Childhood abuse linked with food addiction in adult women

Related Stories

Childhood abuse linked with food addiction in adult women

May 29, 2013
Women who experienced severe physical or sexual abuse during childhood are much more likely to have a food addiction as adults than women who did not experience such abuse, according to a new study published in the journal ...

Childhood trauma linked to adult smoking for girls

July 12, 2012
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can stay with us for life. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy explains how these events can be tied up with ...

Women abused as children more likely to have children with autism

March 20, 2013
Women who experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse as children are more likely to have a child with autism than women who were not abused, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Those ...

Abuse during childhood linked to adult-onset asthma in African-American women

December 7, 2012
According to a new study from the Slone Epidemiology Center (SEC) at Boston University, African-American women who reported suffering abuse before age 11 had a greater likelihood of adult-onset asthma compared to women whose ...

Intervention needed to reduce lifelong effects associated with childhood neglect and emotional abuse

June 10, 2013
Preschool children who have been neglected or emotionally abused exhibit a range of emotional and behavioral difficulties and adverse mother-child interactions that indicate these children require prompt evaluation and interventions, ...

Middle-aged women who were child abuse victims at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes

July 11, 2012
Middle-aged women who report having been physically abused as children are about two times more likely than other women their age to have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, a larger waistline and poor cholesterol levels, ...

Recommended for you

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

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.