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Relationships Between Childhood Maltreatment, Adult Health and Psychiatric Outcomes, and Medical Utilization

Bruce A. Arnow, PhD

Published: August 1, 2004

Article Abstract

Childhood maltreatment strongly predicts poor psychiatric and physical health outcomes in adulthood.This overview of the literature shows that individuals who suffer abuse, neglect, or serious familydysfunction as children are more likely to be depressed, to experience other types of psychiatricillness, to have more physical symptoms (both medically explained and unexplained), and to engagein more health-risk behaviors than their nonabused counterparts. The more severe the abuse, the strongerthe association with poor outcomes in adulthood. Childhood sexual abuse in particular has beenrepeatedly associated, in adulthood, with physical complaints such as chronic pain that are likewiseassociated with depression. Individuals with a history of childhood abuse, particularly sexual abuse,are more likely than individuals with no history of abuse to become high utilizers of medical care andemergency services. Childhood maltreatment is highly prevalent among both men and women, especiallyin specialty settings such as emergency psychiatric care.

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