Wednesday, July 11, 2007
This presentation is part of : Abuse in the Family: Proximal and Distal Effect
The role of severe parental physical abuse in the mental health of a community sample of adults
Bethany Sterling, School of Nursing, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA

Background: Many researchers have studied the association between severe abuse and psychopathology.  Some have looked at the temporal effects of abuse in children prospectively and others have examined clinical populations of adults using retrospective reports.  The age of onset for many psychiatric disorders is in young adulthood and few studies have extended long enough to capture the full risk period.  Thus, there is not clear picture of the effects of parental abuse in adulthood.  Purpose: To examine the relationship between severe physical parental (maternal and paternal) abuse and seeking assistance for emotional problems (psychopathology) in English- speaking adults within the United States (ages 25-75). Methods: Data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the U.S. (MIDUS) a nationally representative random-digit-dial sample of non-institutionalized were used for the analyses. The final sample included 3307 men and women.  A logistic regression was used to determine the risk for receiving treatment for an emotional problem during the last twelve months from the predictors of gender, age, and levels of severe maternal or paternal abuse. Results/Conclusions: Approximately twenty percent of the sample (19.83%, n=655 subjects) reported seeking treatment for an emotional problem during the last twelve months.  The majority of the sample 2,535 (76.4%) had not experienced severe physical abuse by either their mother or father. The regression results suggest individuals who have experienced maternal or paternal severe physical abuse have a greater risk (ranging from 20 to 200% greater odds) of seeking treatment for emotional problems later in life. Interestingly, the interaction of gender by parent gender did not improve the model at the p<0.05 level. Given these findings, several suggestions can be made.  These include an increase in direct (for parents and professionals) educational efforts towards the reducing the prevalence, expanding the prevention, and mitigating the effects of child abuse.