Child maltreatment and trauma exposure among deaf and hard of hearing young adults

Child Abuse Negl. 2014 Oct;38(10):1581-9. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.04.010. Epub 2014 May 24.


The purpose of the present study was to examine the prevalence of child maltreatment and lifetime exposure to other traumatic events in a sample of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH; n=147) and matched hearing (H; n=317) college students. Participants completed measures of child maltreatment (CM), adult victimization and trauma exposure, and current symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Overall, DHH participants reported significantly more instances of CM compared to H participants, with 76% of DHH reporting some type of childhood abuse or neglect. Additionally, DHH participants reported experiencing a higher number of different types of CM, and also reported increased incidents of lifetime trauma exposure and elevated PTSD symptoms. Severity of deafness increased the risk of maltreatment, with deaf participants reporting more instances of CM than hard of hearing participants, and hard of hearing participants reporting more instances of CM than H participants. Among DHH participants, having a deaf sibling was associated with reduced risk for victimization, and identification with the Deaf community was associated with fewer current symptoms of PTSD. A regression model including measures of childhood physical and sexual abuse significantly predicted adult re-victimization and accounted for 27% of the variance among DHH participants. DHH participants report significantly higher rates of CM, lifetime trauma, and PTSD symptoms compared to H participants. Severity of deafness appears to increase the risk of being victimized. Being part of the Deaf community and having access to others who are deaf appear to be important protective factors for psychological well-being among DHH individuals.

Keywords: Child maltreatment; Deafness; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Victimization.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Deafness / epidemiology
  • Deafness / psychology
  • Female
  • Hearing Disorders / epidemiology
  • Hearing Disorders / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic / psychology
  • Violence / psychology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult