Health

Research links childhood abuse to many mental health problems


child abuse

Credit: CC0 . Public Domain

Being abused or neglected as a child can cause a variety of mental health problems, according to a new study led by University College London (UCL) researchers.

The study, published in the journal American Journal of Psychiatrysought to examine the causal effects of child abuse on mental health by taking into account other genetic and environmental risk factors, such as family history of mental illness and socioeconomic disadvantage.

The first study of its kind analyzed 34 quasi-empirical studies, involving more than 54,000 people.

Semi-empirical studies can better establish cause and effect in observation data, using specialized samples (e.g. identical twins) or innovative statistical techniques to exclude other risk factors. For example, in the samples of identical twinsif an abused twin has mental health problems but their non-abused twin does not, the link cannot be due to genetics or a shared family environment Twins.

Across 34 studies, researchers found minor effects of child abuse on a wide range of mental health problems, including internalization disorders (e.g., depression, worried, self-harmand suicide attempts), extrinsic disorders (eg, alcohol and drug abuse, ADHD and behavioral problems), and mental disorders. These effects were consistent regardless of the method used or the way abuse and mental health were measured.

The findings suggest that preventing eight cases of child abuse would prevent a person from developing mental health problems.

Corresponding author, Dr Jessie Baldwin (UCL Psychological & Linguistics) said: “It is well known that child abuse is linked to mental health problems, but it is not yet clear whether the link is clear. whether this relationship is causal or better explained by other risk factors This study provides solid evidence that childhood abuse has a small causal effect on health problems mental health problems and premature death, therefore, abuse prevention interventions are not only necessary for child welfarebut can also prevent the long-term suffering and financial costs of mental illness.”

However, the researchers also found that part of the overall risk of mental health problems among abused people is due to pre-existing vulnerabilities—which can include unusual environments. other benefits (e.g. socioeconomic disadvantage) and genetic responsibility.

Dr. Baldwin said, “Our findings also suggest that in order to reduce the mental health problems In abused individuals, clinicians should address not only the experience of abuse but also pre-existing psychiatric risk factors.”

Researchers define child abuse as any physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect before the age of 18.

Learning Limits

Each quasi-trial study analyzed may have potential biases. However, these findings are consistent across studies using different quasi-experimental methods, suggesting that the results are solid.

In addition, it is not possible to draw firm conclusions about the specific effects of different forms of abuse, as often different forms of abuse/neglect occur simultaneously and studies rarely explain get this.

The lack of data means that it is not possible to examine the impact of the timing of abuse, the time interval between abuses. mistreat and mental health problems, or differences between racial or ethnic groups. Future semi-experimental studies are needed to address these questions.

More information:
Child abuse and mental health problems: A systematic review and meta-analysis of quasi-empirical studies. American Journal of Psychiatry (2023). DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.20220174

quote: Study linking child abuse to multiple mental health problems (2023, 11 January) retrieved 11 January 2023 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-01- links-childhood-maltreat-multiple-mental.html

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