Early Physical Abuse and Adult Outcomes.

Journal Article (Multicenter Study;Journal Article)

Background

Because most physical abuse goes unreported and researchers largely rely on retrospective reports of childhood abuse or prospective samples with substantiated maltreatment, long-term outcomes of physical abuse in US community samples are unknown. We hypothesized that early childhood physical abuse would prospectively predict adult outcomes in education and economic stability, physical health, mental health, substance use, and criminal behavior.

Methods

Researchers in two multisite studies recruited children at kindergarten entry and followed them into adulthood. Parents completed interviews about responses to the child's problem behaviors during the kindergarten interview. Interviewers rated the probability that the child was physically abused in the first 5 years of life. Adult outcomes were measured by using 23 indicators of education and economic stability, physical health, mental health, substance use, and criminal convictions reported by participants and their peers and in school and court records.

Results

Controlling for potential confounds, relative to participants who were not physically abused, adults who had been abused were more likely to have received special education services, repeated a grade, be receiving government assistance, score in the clinical range on externalizing or internalizing disorders, and have been convicted of a crime in the past year (3.20, 2.14, 2.00, 2.42, 2.10, and 2.61 times more likely, respectively) and reported levels of physical health that were 0.10 SDs lower. No differences were found in substance use.

Conclusions

Unreported physical abuse in community samples has long-term detrimental effects into adulthood. Pediatricians should talk with parents about using only nonviolent discipline and support early interventions to prevent child abuse.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Lansford, JE; Godwin, J; McMahon, RJ; Crowley, M; Pettit, GS; Bates, JE; Coie, JD; Dodge, KA

Published Date

  • January 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 147 / 1

PubMed ID

  • 33318226

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7780955

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1098-4275

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0031-4005

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1542/peds.2020-0873

Language

  • eng