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Prospective Investigation of Physical Health Outcomes in Abused and Neglected Children: New Findings From a 30-Year Follow-Up

NCJ Number
American Journal of Public Health Volume: 102 Issue: 6 Dated: June 2012 Pages: 1135-1144
Date Published
June 2012
10 pages

This study investigated the physical health outcomes of abused and neglected children as they progressed into adulthood.


Findings from this study on the long-term effects of child abuse and neglect on the health outcomes of the children as they progressed into adulthood include the following: childhood physical abuse predicted increased risk for malnutrition, lower albumin levels, higher blood urea nitrogen levels, above normal hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) levels, indicating increased risk for diabetes, and increased risk for heart disease; childhood sexual abuse predicted increased risk for malnutrition, but no significant effect on risk for hepatitis C and HIV; and childhood neglect predicted increased levels of HbA1C, lower levels of albumin. Additional findings are presented for the effect of factors such as socioeconomic status, adult socioeconomic status, unhealthy behaviors, smoking, and mental health problems on the health outcomes of adults who had experienced childhood abuse and neglect. Data for the study were obtained from a sample of children (n = 908) who were involved in substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect and were evaluated between 1967 and 1971. In the initial phase of the study, the medical status of the abused children was compared to that of a control group of non-abused children. Follow-up medical information was obtained from participants between 2003 and 2005. After adjusting for race, gender, and age, analyses were conducted to determine the effects of childhood maltreatment on measures of health outcomes for the participants. The findings suggest that experiences of childhood abuse and neglect lead to increased risk for diabetes, lung disease, malnutrition, and vision problems as abused children progress into adulthood. Study limitations are discussed. 3 tables, 1 figure, and 49 references

Date Published: June 1, 2012