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Child Maltreatment, Chronic Pain, and Other Chronic Health Conditions in Youth in Foster Care

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Childhood maltreatment is associated with chronic pain in adults. The goals of this study were 1) to examine this relation in youth placed in foster care with high levels of maltreatment exposure, and 2) to investigate the relation between maltreatment frequency and acute pain, and maltreatment frequency and general chronic health condition. Participants included 403 youth ages 8–19 who resided in foster or residential/group homes. Youth with more maltreatment events had higher odds of chronic pain in a dose response fashion. There was no significant relation between maltreatment type and pain diagnosis, or maltreatment and general chronic health condition. This study examined both self- and case file report of maltreatment frequency and type in association with chronic pain, acute pain, and general chronic health condition in a sample of youth in foster care, providing evidence that more maltreatment exposure increases the likelihood of chronic pain, even in youth. This suggests that it may not take decades for the overloaded stress response system to lead to a serious pain condition, but that this process may occur much earlier in the lifespan. The findings have important implications for professionals working to prevent and treat the effects of child maltreatment or chronic pain.

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This research was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health, RO1 Grant MH079252-03 to Yo Jackson, Principal Investigator, as well as funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, F31 grant 1F31HD088020-01A1 awarded to Lindsay Huffhines.

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Correspondence to Lindsay Huffhines.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Standards and Informed Consent

All participants and their caregivers received information about the study, the voluntary nature of participation, and limits to confidentiality before provision of informed consent and assent at the start of each data-collection meeting. The authors’ university institutional review board and the State Department of Family Services review board provided approval for the study.

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Huffhines, L., Jackson, Y. Child Maltreatment, Chronic Pain, and Other Chronic Health Conditions in Youth in Foster Care. Journ Child Adol Trauma 12, 437–445 (2019).

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