Methods: Data are drawn from the Seattle Social Development Project (SSDP), a longitudinal study of the development of positive and problem outcomes that has followed prospectively a panel of Seattle public school children, from age 10 to 30 with over 91% sample retention. The paper examines the contribution child maltreatment (assessed retrospectively at age 24) to alcohol use disorder, drug abuse disorder, depression and crime at age 30. Analyses examine the extent to which abuse experiences before age 10 contribute to difficulties in adult functioning over and above prospectively assessed (age 10-11) poor family functioning, childhood poverty and gender of child. Four maltreatment types were assessed: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. The long-term consequences of single type and multiple type maltreatment on these adult outcomes are examined using correlation, regression, and structural equation models.
Results: The four early abuse types formed a well fitting general abuse factor, allowing the examination of common and unique variance in abuse to the adult outcomes at age 30. Strongest prediction of adult outcomes came from the general, common-variance abuse factor, which significantly (p < .05) predicted age 30 nicotine dependence, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, major depression, and crime. In addition, early childhood sexual abuse uniquely predicted major depression symptoms over and above the contribution of general abuse and controls. All models controlled for poverty, gender and early family dysfunction (low bonding to parents, poor family management, high family conflict, harsh discipline). Conclusions and Implications: Findings indicate that overlapping, multiple forms of abuse are detrimental to adult functioning over and above early family dysfunction, poverty and child gender, and that early sexual abuse may be particularly predictive of symptoms of major depression in adulthood. The findings support a clinical view of child maltreatment as compound, with long-term consequences in adulthood, and encourage prevention efforts to address all forms of maltreatment.