U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Abused and Neglected Children Grown Up

NCJ Number
American Journal of Psychiatry Volume: 156 Issue: 8 Dated: 1999 Pages: 1223-1229
Date Published
7 pages

This study examined the extent to which childhood abuse and neglect increased the risk for subsequent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among 1,196 victims of substantiated child abuse and neglect from 1967 to 1971 in a Midwestern metropolitan county; and it determined whether the childhood victimization link to PTSD persisted despite controls for family, individual, and lifestyle characteristics associated with both childhood victimization and PTSD.


The study determined that individuals abused and/or neglected in childhood had an increased risk for lifetime and current PTSD. Of those victimized by sexual abuse in childhood, 37.5 percent met DSM-III-R criteria for lifetime PTSD; the same was true for 32.7 percent of those physically abused and 30.6 percent of victims of childhood neglect. The association between childhood victimization and number of PTSD symptoms persisted despite the introduction of covariates associated with risk for both. Although victims of childhood abuse (sexual and physical) and neglect were at increased risk for developing PTSD, such victimization was not a sufficient explanation for PTSD symptoms. Family, individual, and lifestyle variables also put individuals at increased risk for PTSD symptoms. Future research will examine the extent of comorbidity of psychiatric disorders in these abused and neglected children and comparison subjects, including an analysis of the temporal ordering of the symptoms of the disorder. A sample of non-abused and non-neglected children was matched with the sample of abused and neglected children on age, race, sex, and approximate family socioeconomic class. Both samples were monitored into young adulthood. Participants were administered a 2-hour interview that included an assessment for PTSD using the National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule. 3 tables and 43 references

Date Published: January 1, 1999