Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Violence against Children, Later Victimisation, and Mental Health: A Cross-Sectional Study of the General Norwegian Population

Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Violence against Children, Later Victimisation, and Mental Health: A Cross-Sectional Study of the General Norwegian Population

Article excerpt

Childhood violence is related to mental health problems in adulthood, as demonstrated by both retrospective (Chen et al., 2010; Green et al., 2010) and prospective (Caspi et al., 2003; Noll, Horowitz, Bonanno, Trickett, & Putnam, 2003) studies. Unfortunately, violence against children is not uncommon in the general population (Briere & Elliott, 2003) and hence constitutes a public health problem. Although there is a strong relationship between childhood violence and adult mental health problems, the link is not necessarily simple or direct. Continued social deprivation, drug and alcohol use, genetic factors and changes in stress-response systems, and cognitions, resource loss, and emotions such as self-blame and shame are among factors that may represent potential mediators (Caspi et al., 2003; Fergusson, Horwood, & Lynskey, 1997; King & Liberzon, 2012; Schumm, Doane, & Hobfoll, 2012; Zayfert, 2012). Revictimisation is one factor that has received substantial empirical support as a potential pathway from childhood violence to adult psychological distress (Pratchett & Yehuda, 2011).

Research on revictimisation has traditionally been limited to child sexual abuse (CSA) and subsequent adult sexual victimisation. Some researchers even restrict their definition as such (Roodman & Clum, 2001). An increased and large revictimisation risk in CSA victims has been documented (Classen, Palesh, & Aggarwal, 2005; Messman & Long, 1996). In earlier studies, victimisation was often investigated separately for various types of violence, which resulted in parallel research on, for example, CSA and child physical maltreatment. During recent years, this research has become more integrated and has thus produced robust evidence that violence victims are often exposed to multiple types of victimisation (Finkelhor, Ormrod, & Turner, 2007). Adult health seems to be highly impacted by the cumulative burden of victimisation (Cloitre et al., 2009; Felitti et al., 1998; Zayfert, 2012). However, to date, there is no clear understanding of the relative importance of specific types of victimisation compared to the total burden of violence for adult revictimisation and mental health. Finkelhor and colleagues (2007) argue against a narrow definition that investigates only one type of victimisation at early and later time points, because one type of victimisation may also increase the later risk of other types of violence. Similarly, Teicher and colleagues (2006) note that some types of violence, such as psychological abuse, have been largely ignored. Several authors have called for a broad assessment of childhood exposure to violence to better identify young people at risk for later revictimisation and health problems (Miller et al., 2011).

To investigate the importance of various childhood and adult violence exposure for mental health, we conducted a large, cross-sectional study of violence exposure in the general Norwegian population. We used a broad assessment of childhood abuse that followed the World Health Organization's categorisation of violence into sexual, physical, psychological abuse and neglect (World Report on Violence and Health, 2002), and included adult sexual abuse, physical abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV). We hypothesised that childhood violence exposure would increase the risk of adult violence exposure, and in addition that childhood violence exposure would increase the vulnerability for developing mental health problems following adult exposure.

The aims of the study were to: 1) estimate the association between childhood violence exposure and adult violence exposure in the general Norwegian population; 2) investigate the association between both childhood and adult violence exposure and adult mental health; and 3) investigate the importance of the various combinations of childhood violence.

Methods

Participants and procedure

A random sample of Norwegian citizens aged 18-75 was drawn from the General Population Registry of Norway, which contains records of all inhabitants' personal identification number, date of birth, sex, and address. …

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