Studies of the effects of childhood adversities often use psychiatric diagnoses and focus on physical or sexual abuse. This study explored relationships between a broader range of adversities and both diagnoses and specific symptoms. The files of 217 child and adolescent mental health service users were audited. Information regarding 14 adverse childhood experiences, 20 diagnoses and 38 symptoms was analysed. Only two diagnoses (Psychosis and Oppositional Defiant Disorder) were predicted by mean number of adversities. However, the symptom clusters indicative of six diagnoses were related to one or more childhood adversities. Strong specific relationships were found between sexual abuse and hyperarousal, between parental substance abuse and rule violation, and between loss and avoidance/numbing. Mean number of adversities predicted six specific symptoms as well as global functioning, risk to self, and risk to others. Parental mental health, a proxy for genetic influence, was unrelated to all diagnoses, all symptom clusters and all but one of the 38 symptoms. It is concluded that understanding the complex nature of the effects of childhood adversities are constrained by focusing on diagnoses and a restricted range of adversities. The need to take a full psychosocial history in child and adolescent mental health services, and the implications for primary prevention, are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Agar, K., & Read, J. (2002). What happens when people disclose sexual or physical abuse to staff at a community mental health Centre? International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 11, 70–79. doi:10.1046/j.1440-0979.2002.00230.x.
Agar, K., Read, J., & Bush, J. (2002). Identification of abuse histories in a community mental health Centre: The need for policies and training. Journal of Mental Health, 11, 533–543. doi:10.1080/09638230020023886.
Albee, G. (1985). The argument for primary prevention. Journal of Primary Prevention, 5, 213–219. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01324537#page-1.
Allen, G. (2011). Early intervention: The next steps. London: H.M. Government.
Bateman, J., Henderson, C., & Kezelman, C. (2013). Trauma-informed care and practice: Towards a cultural shift in policy reform across mental health and human services in Australia. Rozelle: Mental Health Coordinating Council Retrieved from http://mhcc.org.au/media/34556/ch-a_national_strategic_direction-ticp-forum-presentation.pdf.
Bentall, R., de Sousa, P., Varese, F., Wickham, S., Sitko, K., Haarmans, M., & Read, J. (2014). From adversity to psychosis: Pathways and mechanisms from specific adversities to specific symptoms. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 49, 1011–1022. doi:10.1007/s00127-014-0914-0.
Briscoe-Smith, A., & Hinshaw, S. (2006). Linkages between child abuse and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in girls: behavioral and social correlates. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30, 1239–1255. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2006.04.008.
Cunningham, T., Shannon, C., Crothers, I., Hoy, K., Fitzsimmons, C., McCann, R., et al. (2016). Enquiring about traumatic experiences in psychosis: A comparison of case notes and self-report questionnaires. Psychosis, 8(4), 301–310. doi:10.1080/17522439.2015.1115542.
Endo, T., Sugiyama, T., & Someya, T. (2006). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and dissociative disorder among abused children. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 60, 434–438. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1819.2006.01528.x.
Fergusson, D., & Horwood, L. (1999). Prospective childhood predictors of deviant peer affiliations in adolescence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40, 581–592. doi:10.1111/1469-7610.00475.
Ford, J., Connor, D., & Hawke, J. (2009). Complex trauma among psychiatrically impaired children: A cross-sectional, chart-review study. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 70, 1155–1163. doi:10.4088/JCP.08m04783.
Ford, J., Wasser, T., & Connor, D. (2011). Identifying and determining the symptomseverity associated with polyvictimization among psychiatrically impaired children in the outpatient setting. Child Maltreatment, 16, 16–226. doi:10.1177/1077559511406109.
Hechtman, L. (2005). ADHD. In B. Sadock & V. Sadock (Eds.), Comprehensive textbook of psychiatry (8th edn) (pp. 3183–3198). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.
Hepworth, I., & McGowan, L. (2013). Do mental health professionals enquire about childhood sexual abuse during routine mental health assessment in acute mental health settings? A substantive literature review. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 20, 473–483. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2850.2012.01939.x.
Kisiel, C., Fehrenback, T., Small, L., & Lyons, J. (2009). Assessment of complex trauma exposure, responses, and service needs among children and adolescents in child welfare. Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma, 2, 143–160. doi:10.1080/19361520903120467.
Longden, E., Sampson, M., & Read, J. (2016). Childhood adversity and psychosis: Generalised or specific effects? Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 25, 349-359. doi:10.1017/S204579601500044X.
Maguire, S., Williams, B., Naughton, A., Cowley, L., Tempest, V., Mann, M., et al. (2015). A systematic review of the emotional, behavioural and cognitive features exhibited by school-aged children experiencing neglect or emotional abuse. Child: Care, Health and Development, 41, 641–653. doi:10.1111/cch.12227.
Maniglio, R. (2015). Significance, nature, and direction of the association between child sexual abuse and conduct disorder: A systematic review. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 16, 241–257. doi:10.1177/1524838014526068.
McLaren, J., & Brown, R. (1989). Childhood problems associated with abuse and neglect. Canada's Mental Health, 37(3), 1–6 Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1990-14924-001.
McLeer, S., Deblinger, E., Henry, D., & Orvaschel, H. (1992). Sexually abused-children at high-risk for posttraumatic-stress-disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 3, 875–879. doi:10.1097/00004583-199209000-00015.
Meller, S., Kuperman, K., McCullough, C., & Shaffer, A. (2016). Adverse effects of childhood emotional maltreatment on child behavioral outcomes. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 2, 127–144. doi:10.1080/10926771.2016.1101034.
Merry, S., & Andrews, L. (1994). Psychiatric status of sexually abused children 12 months after disclosure of abuse. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 33, 939–944. doi:10.1097/00004583-199409000-00002.
Muskett, C. (2014). Trauma-informed care in inpatient mental health settings: A review of the literature. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 23, 51–59. doi:10.1111/inm.12012.
Nigg, J., & Craver, L. (2014). Commentary: ADHD and social disadvantage: An inconvenient truth? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55, 446–447. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12237.
Ouyang, L., Fang, X., Mercy, J., Perou, R., & Grosse, S. (2008). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms and child maltreatment: A population-based study. Journal of Pediatrics, 153, 851–856. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2008.06.002.
Perry, B. (2013). Brief: Reflections on childhood, trauma and society. Houston: Child Trauma Academy Press.
Posner, J., Eilenberg, J., Friedman, J., & Fullilove, M. (2008). Quality and use of trauma histories obtained from psychiatric outpatients: A ten-year follow-up. Psychiatric Services, 59, 318–321. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.59.3.318.
Read, J. (2013). Childhood adversity and psychosis: From heresy to certainty. In J. Read & J. Dillon (Eds.), Models of madness: Psychological, social and biological approaches to psychosis, (2 nd edn) (pp. 249–275). London: Routledge.
Read, J., Agar, K., Argyle, N., & Aderhold, V. (2003). Sexual and physical abuse during childhood and adulthood as predictors of hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 76, 1–22. doi:10.1348/14760830260569210.
Read, J., Hammersley, P., & Rudegeair, T. (2007). Why, when and how to ask about abuse. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 13, 101–110. doi:10.1192/apt.bp.106.002840.
Read, J., Fosse, R., Moskowitz, A., & Perry, B. (2014). The traumagenic neurodevelopmental model of psychosis revisited. Neuropsychiatry, 4, 65–79. doi:10.2217/npy.13.89.
Read, J., Sampson, M., & Critchley, C. (2016). Are mental health services getting better at responding to abuse, assault and neglect? Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 134, 287-294. doi:10.1111/acps.12552.
Rose, S., Freeman, C., & Proudlock, S. (2012). Despite the evidence - why are we still not creating more trauma informed mental health services? Journal of Public Mental Health, 11, 5–9. doi:10.1108/17465721211207266.
Rossiter, A., Byrne, F., Wota, A., Nisar, Z., Ofuafor, T., Murray, I., et al. (2015). Childhood trauma levels in individuals attending adult mental health services: An evaluation of clinical records and structured measurement of childhood trauma. Child Abuse & Neglect, 44, 36–45. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.01.001.
Russell, G., Ford, T., Rosenberg, R., & Kelly, S. (2014). The association of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with socioeconomic disadvantage: Alternative explanations and evidence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55, 436–445. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12170.
Sadock, B., & Sadock, V. (Eds.). (2005). Comprehensive textbook of psychiatry (8th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Sadock, B., & Sadock, V. (Eds.). (2014). Concise textbook of child and adolescent psychiatry. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Sampson, M., & Read, J. (2016). Are mental health staff getting better at asking about abuse and neglect? International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 26, 95–104. doi:10.1111/inm.12237.
Stern, A., Lynch, D., Oates, R., O’Toole, B., & Cooney, G. (1995). Self-esteem, depression, behavior and family functioning in sexually abused-children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 36, 1077–1089. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.1995.tb01352.x.
Teicher, M., & Samson, J. (2016). Annual research review: enduring neurobiological effects of childhood abuse and neglect. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57, 241–266. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12507.
Walters, S., Hogg, L., & Gillmore, C. (2016). Evaluation of a tailored training programme to improve the assessment and treatment of trauma in an early intervention in psychosis service. Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches, 8, 226–237. doi:10.1080/17522439.2015.1131324.
Webster, R. (2001). Symptoms and long-term outcomes for children who have been sexually assaulted. Psychology in the Schools, 38, 533–547. doi:10.1002/pits.1041.
Weinstein, D., Staffelbach, D., & Biaggio, M. (2000). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder: Differential diagnosis in childhood sexual abuse. Clinical Psychology Review, 20, 359–378. doi:10.1016/S0272-7358(98)00107-X.
Young, M., Read, J., Barker-Collo, S., & Harrison, R. (2001). Evaluating and overcoming barriers to taking abuse histories. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32, 407–414. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.32.4.407.
Procedures were in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. Permission for the study was given by the Ethics Committees of the University of Auckland and the local District Health Board. The study was an audit and did not, therefore, require signed consent from the individual participants or their parents. The participants’ data was depersonalised in the data collection process. The names of the clients were not recorded on the data collection sheets.
About this article
Cite this article
Read, J., Mayne, R. Understanding the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversities: beyond Diagnosis and Abuse. Journ Child Adol Trauma 10, 289–297 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-017-0137-0
- Child maltreatment
- Child abuse
- Child neglect
- Domestic violence
- Psychiatric diagnoses
- Psychiatric symptoms