Exposure to childhood abuse or neglect may increase the risk of conduct problems

According to a study in BMC Psychiatry, children exposed to abuse before reaching age 11 may be at a higher likelihood of exhibiting conduct problems.

As part of a large UK birth cohort study, the study was one of the first of its kind to probe the effects of child abuse and neglect on antisocial behaviors, or conduct problems.

“We applied latent class growth analysis to identify conduct problem trajectories in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, using parent-rated conduct problems from ages 4–17 years,” the journal article states.

“Childhood-only and adolescence-only abuse, in addition to abuse in both developmental periods, were assessed by retrospective self-report at age 22.”

Researchers demonstrated that abuse in childhood was associated with a heightened risk of early-onset persistent and adolescence-onset conduct problems in comparison to children with no history of abuse.

“The results also highlight that childhood-only and persistent abuse were more strongly linked to elevated conduct problem trajectories than adolescence-only abuse, and that persistent abuse is particularly detrimental,” the article states.

“Overall, our findings suggest that conduct problems with an onset in adolescence show similar associations with abuse to conduct problems that emerge in childhood and persist, with any differences between these trajectories being quantitative (i.e., implying common risk factors) rather than qualitative (i.e., distinct risk factors) in nature.”

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