Efforts to Reduce Abuse in Adulthood Should Begin in Childhood

There are numerous studies on childhood abuse and the negative outcomes of such events. Childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, maltreatment, neglect, and other forms of trauma have dramatic negative effects on a child’s development. Survivors of these types of abuse are more likely than children who have not experienced abuse to engage in risky behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual risk taking, and criminal acts. They are also at greater risk for physical health problems from these behaviors including injury, HIV/AIDs and heart disease.

Although the relationship between childhood abuse and adult maladjustment has been well established, what is not as clear is how childhood abuse relates to adult abuse. In an attempt to determine exactly what types of abuse predict future abuse, and what other factors influence risk for abuse in adulthood, Gretchen R. Chiu of the New England Research Institutes in Massachusetts recently led a study involving community-dwelling adults between the ages of 30 and 80.

Chiu focused on a culturally and economically diverse sample of participants to further identify abuse patterns. She also looked at how abuses overlapped and how any overlap might have predictive value. The results of her analysis revealed that abuse occurred in 15% to 27% of the participants studied.

Women were more likely to experience sexual and emotional abuse than men in the study and low socioeconomic status and minority race increased this risk, especially in women. Another key finding was that childhood sexual abuse was a strong predictor of various forms of abuse in adulthood for both men and women. Additionally, the more types of abuse experienced in childhood, the more likely the survivor was to be revictimized in adulthood. This finding was constant across all participants, regardless of race or income status.

Overall, the results of this study underscore the lifelong impact of childhood abuse. Chiu added, “Therefore, prevention of childhood abuse and appropriately timed interventions may help to lower both the prevalence of all types of abuse in adulthood, as well as numerous negative mental and physical health outcomes.”

Chiu, Gretchen R., M.S., et al. (2013). Prevalence and overlap of childhood and adult physical, sexual, and emotional abuse: A descriptive analysis of results from the Boston Area Community Health (BACH) Survey. Violence and Victims 28.3 (2013): 381-402. ProQuest. Web.

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  • Karon


    July 9th, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    If only it was so easy just to say let’s end childhood abuse. The ones doing the abusing aren’t typically the ones who are getting that message loud and clear

  • Chynna M

    Chynna M

    July 10th, 2013 at 4:18 AM

    It is very disturbing but there are families that this cycle is so engrained in that it would be next to impossible to break that trend.

    These are the families that would benefit so much from early intervention and education, as well as lots of therapy, but how do you individually do this for every family that could use it?

    And where does all of the additional money that would be needed to implement a program like this come from? There are so many family issues clammoring for the same momey that it often become difficult to know where it should be allocated.

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