Childhood Maltreatment Is Partial Causal Factor for Later Mental Health Problems

Link seen across wide range of psychiatric disorders

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TUESDAY, Jan. 31, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Experiencing abuse or neglect as a child can cause multiple mental health problems, according to a review published online Jan. 11 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Jessie R. Baldwin, Ph.D., from University College London, and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the relationship between childhood maltreatment and mental health problems.

Based on 34 quasi-experimental studies (54,646 independent participants), the researchers found that childhood maltreatment was moderately associated with mental health problems (Cohen's d = 0.56). In an adjusted analysis, the association between childhood maltreatment and mental health problems was weakened (Cohen's d = 0.31). This adjusted association between childhood maltreatment and mental health persisted across psychiatric disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide attempt, alcohol and drug abuse, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct problems, and psychosis).

"This study provides rigorous evidence to suggest that childhood maltreatment has small causal effects on mental health problems," Baldwin said in a statement. "Although small, these effects of maltreatment could have far-reaching consequences, given that mental health problems predict a range of poor outcomes, such as unemployment, physical health problems, and early mortality."

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Lori Solomon

Lori Solomon

Medically reviewed by Mark Arredondo, M.D.

Published on January 31, 2023

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