The legacy of child maltreatment: long-term health consequences for women

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2004 Jun;13(5):468-73. doi: 10.1089/1540999041280990.


In 2001, over 903,000 children were victims of physical, sexual, or psychological maltreatment and neglect. Available retrospective and longitudinal data suggest that child maltreatment has a significant negative impact directly on women's physical and mental health in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Additionally, childhood maltreatment is a critical risk factor for physical and sexual victimization in adulthood, especially by an intimate partner. The harmful effects of victimization in adulthood among women are substantial, and the negative outcomes of adulthood victimization are especially pronounced when there is a history of childhood maltreatment. Therefore, in addition to the direct effects in childhood, child maltreatment appears to have an indirect effect on women's physical and mental health by increasing the risk for victimization which, in turn, has a direct negative impact on health. The results of existing empirical studies point to the importance of preventing child maltreatment and its short-term and long-term consequences. Intervening at an early stage may reduce a child's likelihood of developing long-term health problems, and also reduce the public health burden of child maltreatment by preventing future health problems and revictimization in adulthood with all its negative health consequences.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Sex Distribution
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*