Child maltreatment and attentional problems: A longitudinal birth cohort study.

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Child maltreatment and attentional problems: A longitudinal birth cohort study.

Child Abuse Negl. 2019 Sep 13;98:104170

Authors: Boyd M, Kisely S, Najman J, Mills R

OBJECTIVE: To examine whether child maltreatment is associated with attentional problems in adolescence (14 years) and young adulthood (21 years), and whether outcomes depend on the type of maltreatment (sexual vs non-sexual).
METHODS: Data from a population based cohort study involving 3778 mother-child pairs were linked with data from the state child protection agency to examine associations between child abuse and neglect and attention problems, measured using the Achenbach Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) and the Achenbach Young Adult Self Report (YASR).
RESULTS: 245 (6.5%) participants had been the subject of notification for non-sexual maltreatment (one or more of neglect, emotional or physical abuse) compared with only 54 (1.4%) who had been subject of notification for suspected sexual abuse. After adjusting for potential confounding variables including maternal, participant and sociodemographic factors, we found those exposed to non sexual maltreatment were likely to experience attentional problems at 14 years (p < .001) and 21 years of age (p = .044), compared with those participants who had not experienced non sexual maltreatment. By contrast, at age 14 years, sexual abuse was associated with attentional problems only as reported by the participant, not their carer. Results at 21 years of age for those exposed to sexual child maltreatment (p=.655) were again in contrast to the observed association between attentional problems and non sexual child maltreatment (p = .035).
CONCLUSION: In this study, non-sexual maltreatment in childhood is associated with attentional problems at both 14 years and 21 years of age. These findings highlight the need for targeted research to better understand the longer term mental health outcomes for children exposed to non-sexual maltreatment. Potential implications for mental health services include the need for broader screening at presentation and importantly, greater collaboration with schools, general practitioners and paediatricians, given the greatest impact would arguably be within these settings.

PMID: 31525706 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]