This report describes an examination of the relative associations of objective and subjective measurements of childhood maltreatment with emotional disorders in adulthood, and discusses the findings, suggesting that modification of the subjective experience of childhood maltreatment could improve the longitudinal course of emotional disorders.
In this paper, the authors examine the relative associations of objective and subjective measures of childhood maltreatment and continuity in psychopathology with the course of emotional disorders in adulthood. They describe their prospective cohort study, followed up until age 40, of participants residing in the American Midwest with substantiated records of childhood physical and sexual abuse and/or neglect between 1967 and 1971, and a demographically matched group of participants experiencing no abuse or neglect in childhood. The objective experience of childhood maltreatment before age 12 years was prospectively measured through official court records, whereas the subjective experience was measured through retrospective self-report at a mean (SD) age of 29 years. The authors also assessed current and previous lifetime psychopathology at a mean age of 29 years. Symptoms of depression and anxiety were measured at mean (SD) ages of 39.5 and 41.2 years using Poisson regression models. The authors found that, in a cohort of 1196 participants, those with objective plus subjective measures of childhood maltreatment had a greater number of subsequent follow-up phases with depression or anxiety than controls, as did those with subjective-only measures. Conversely, participants with objective-only measures did not have a greater number of follow-up phases with depression or anxiety. Current and lifetime psychopathology measured at the time the subjective experience was assessed explained its association with a later course of emotional disorders in participants with subjective-only measures but not in those with objective plus subjective measures. The associations seen between childhood maltreatment and poor course of emotional disorders over the subsequent decade were largely attributable to the subjective experience of maltreatment, which was partly explained by continuity in psychopathology. Modification of the subjective experience of childhood maltreatment could improve the longitudinal course of emotional disorders. Publisher Abstract Provided
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