Childhood Abuse, Intimate Partner Violence in Young Adulthood, and Welfare Receipt by Midlife

Pediatrics. 2023 Mar 1;151(3):e2022057379. doi: 10.1542/peds.2022-057379.


Objective: To investigate prospective associations between type of child abuse (physical, sexual, both), timing (childhood, young adulthood, both), and welfare receipt into middle-age.

Methods: Database linkage study using the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Kindergarten Children cohort born in 1980 and government administrative databases (N = 3020). We assessed parental tax returns, family and personal background characteristics (1982-1987). At age 22 years, participants answered retrospective questionnaires on experienced childhood abuse (physical, sexual abuse < age 18 years) and intimate partner violence (IPV) (ages 18-22). Main outcome was years on social assistance, on the basis of participant tax returns (ages 23-37 years). Analysis included weights for population representativeness.

Results: Of 1690 participants (54.4% females) with available data, 22.4% reported childhood abuse only, 14.5% IPV only, and 18.5% both. Prevalence of childhood physical, sexual, and both was 20.4%, 12.2%, and 8.3%, respectively. Adjusting for socioeconomic background and individual characteristics, we found that childhood physical abuse alone and physical or sexual abuse combined were associated with a two-fold risk of welfare receipt, as compared to never-abused (adjusted incidence risk ratio 2.43, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.65-3.58; and adjusted incidence risk ratio 2.04, 95% CI, 1.29-3.23, respectively). Repeated abuse (childhood abuse combined with adult IPV) had a three-fold risk (adjusted incidence ratio 3.59, 95% CI, 2.39-5.37).

Conclusions: Abuse across several developmental periods (childhood and young adulthood) is associated with increased risks of long-term welfare receipt, independently of socioeconomic background. Results indicate a dose-response association. Early prevention and targeted identification are crucial to preventing economic adversity that may potentially lead to intergenerational poverty.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult