Child abuse as a life-course social determinant of adult health

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Despite prevention efforts worldwide, many children today continue to experience abuse within close relationships, and many adults carry with them histories of abuse. This narrative review focuses on the growing body of research regarding the long-term health consequences of child abuse. First, the review presents a brief introduction to the phenomenon of child abuse, as well as a discussion of theoretical approaches to describing processes through which child abuse can jeopardize later adult health. The review then provides an integrative summary of studies based on community samples that examine associations between physical, psychological, and sexual abuse in childhood and adult mental and physical health. The article concludes with a discussion of conceptualizing child abuse as a life-course social determinant of adult health for both clinical and public health purposes and calls for translational research that can inform efforts to promote the health of diverse individuals and populations with histories of child abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-55
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


  • Adult health
  • Child abuse
  • Family relationships
  • Family violence
  • Life course
  • Maltreatment

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