Abstract: Sexual Minority Status and Child Maltreatment: How Do Health Outcomes Among Sexual Minority Young Adults Differ Due to Child Maltreatment Exposure? (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Sexual Minority Status and Child Maltreatment: How Do Health Outcomes Among Sexual Minority Young Adults Differ Due to Child Maltreatment Exposure?

Friday, January 18, 2019: 1:45 PM
Union Square 17 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
June Paul, PhD, Assistant Professor, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
Emma Monahan, MSW, Doctoral student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Background and purpose: Research continues to document the association between sexual minority (SM) status and the risk of abuse victimization in childhood and adolescence. Although all individuals who experience maltreatment during childhood face challenges related to wellbeing and healthy adult functioning, these issues may be exacerbated for SM individuals due to the chronic stress that is often associated with SM status.

Despite this concern, researchers have not yet explored whether there are differences in the outcomes among SM youth that have and have not experienced childhood maltreatment. Although prior studies indicate heightened concerns for SM youth, as well as for youth exposed to child maltreatment in the general population, it is unclear how the intersection of these two factors may play out in early adulthood. To address this gap, our aim was to examine the relationship between child maltreatment and health outcomes (emotional, physical, behavioral) among sexual minority young adults. By restricting our study sample to sexual minority young adults, we were able to investigate the unique associations between child maltreatment and emerging health outcomes, beyond the impact of sexual minority status.

Methods: Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), the current study examines descriptive statistics and ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models to investigate differences in SM young adult outcomes by experiences of child maltreatment. Regression coefficients show how experiences of child maltreatment may have unique impacts on the young adult outcomes of SM individuals.

Results: Among SM adults, maltreatment showed strong associations with poor adult mental health outcomes compared to their non-maltreated peers. Additionally, there appeared to be a fairly strong negative association between maltreatment and general health outcomes for SM adults. Behavioral health outcomes did not have as strong of an association with maltreatment for this population, which suggests the effects of maltreatment for SM adults are most salient for mental health and physical health outcomes.

Conclusions and implications: This study is novel in its ability to study within-group differences over time for SM adults, and its ability to measure a breadth of outcomes that help us understand the potential long-term, negative relationship between maltreatment and health outcomes for SM adults. Results offer evidence to encourage further exploration of the outcomes of SM maltreated individuals in young adulthood, as well as the need to consider more comprehensive physical and mental health services for maltreated SM adults.