Background: Although some studies examined the moderating role of gender in the relationship between childhood maltreatment and mental disorders later in life, a number of them examined the effects of only one or two types of maltreatment on an individual mental disorder, for instance, depression, substance use. It is of considerable clinical and theoretical importance to have in-depth understanding what roles of different types of childhood abuse play out in a wide range of mental disorders among women and men using well accepted instruments measuring abuse and mental disorders. The present study aimed to examine this issue using a large nationally representative population sample to explore the gender effect of different types of childhood abuse in mental disorders, and assess the moderating role of gender in the abuse-mental disorder relationship.
Methods: Using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey 2012: Mental Health we sought to answer this question. Respondents with information on childhood maltreatment prior to age 16 were selected (N = 23, 395).
Results: We found: i) strong associations between childhood abuse frequency and gender; ii) significant differences between men and women in terms of mental disorders; iii) strong associations between childhood abuse and mental disorders; and, iv) gender moderated the role of childhood abuse history on adulthood mental disorders. Females with a history of sexual abuse and/or exposure to interpersonal violence were at a greater risk of alcohol abuse or dependence later in life.
Conclusions: Intervention should occur as early as possible, and should help female victims of childhood sexual abuse and/or exposure to interpersonal violence, and their families to build more constructive ways to effectively reduce the negative affects of these experiences. Recognition of the moderating role of gender on the relationship between childhood abuse history and mental disorders later in life may aid clinicians and researchers in providing optimal health services.
Keywords: Childhood maltreatment; Gender; Interaction; Internalizing; Substance use.