Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe the extent to which childhood abuse and neglect increase a person's risk for subsequent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to determine whether the relationship to PTSD persists despite controls for family, individual, and lifestyle characteristics associated with both childhood victimization and PTSD.
Method: Victims of substantiated child abuse and neglect from 1967 to 1971 in a Midwestern metropolitan county area were matched on the basis of age, race, sex, and approximate family socioeconomic class with a group of nonabused and nonneglected children and followed prospectively into young adulthood. Subjects (N = 1,196) were located and administered a 2-hour interview that included the National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule to assess PTSD.
Results: Childhood victimization was associated with increased risk for lifetime and current PTSD. Slightly more than a third of the childhood victims of sexual abuse (37.5%), 32.7% of those physically abused, and 30.6% of victims of childhood neglect met DSM-III-R criteria for lifetime PTSD. The relationship between childhood victimization and number of PTSD symptoms persisted despite the introduction of covariates associated with risk for both.
Conclusions: Victims of child abuse (sexual and physical) and neglect are at increased risk for developing PTSD, but childhood victimization is not a sufficient condition. Family, individual, and lifestyle variables also place individuals at risk and contribute to the symptoms of PTSD.