February 20, 2019
Research has shown that exposure to child maltreatment increases the risk for many negative outcomes throughout the lifespan, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and problem substance use. In a new article in Emerging Adulthood, Methodology Center Investigators Kate Guastaferro and Bethany Bray examined how the experience of different patterns of childhood maltreatment is associated with substance abuse and mental health outcomes. To understand these relationships, the authors applied latent class analysis (LCA) to a subsample of 5,194 emerging adults (ages 18-25) from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III.
The analysis revealed three classes of maltreatment: Rare Maltreatment; Occasional Maltreatment, Rare Sexual Abuse; and Frequent Maltreatment, Some Sexual Abuse. Membership in all latent classes was associated with substance use. This suggests that anyone who has suffered maltreatment as a child should be targeted in substance-abuse-prevention interventions. On the other hand, mental health diagnoses were more common among members of the Frequent Maltreatment, Some Sexual Abuse class, suggesting that mental health interventions become more critical for individuals who suffered more frequent maltreatment.
Kate discussed the significance of this research. “Child maltreatment is an experience unique to each victim—victims could experience any combination of type and frequency of maltreatment. LCA allows for exploration of these different patterns of maltreatment exposure and can inform prevention responses specific to these varied experiences. First and foremost, efforts should be made to reduce the experience of child maltreatment. If we cannot prevent maltreatment from occurring in the first place, then it is vital as prevention scientists that we design the best interventions to effectively and efficiently mitigate the resulting negative health outcomes. Studies like this can help inform the development of more effective and efficacious mental health and substance abuse interventions for those with a history of maltreatment.”
Open the article. (Journal access required.)
Guastaferro, K., & Bray, B. C. (2019). Substance use and mental health outcomes during emerging adulthood among individuals with different patterns of child maltreatment. Emerging Adulthood. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696819830481