Healthy Adult Relationships Beneficial to Child Abuse Survivors
About the Child Abuse Study
The study was lead by Kimberly Henry, a researcher in psychology and public health at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
For their study, researchers followed a group on 485 young adults in Rochester, New York for 12 years to see how neglect, maltreatment or abuse during childhood influences their ability to have intimate relationships and susceptibility to depression.
Henry and colleagues used records from Child Protective Services to identify 99 participants who had been abused before the age of 18 and compared their experiences to a group of 366 participants who were not maltreated during childhood.
Methodology and Results of the Study
In the beginning of the study, participants on average were about 25 years old. For 12 years, participants completed questionnaires about their relationships, their mental health, and their children. Researchers then gathered very detailed information amongst those who had been neglected or maltreated when they were children.
The researchers found that those abused as children were more likely to be black, have a mother who became a parent before age 19, and live in a poor neighborhood with a higher arrest rate. However, while abuse survivors were more likely to be depressed, a history of maltreatment didn't impact whether they were in a committed relationship or their level of satisfaction with the relationship.
At the end of the study, Henry said by email, “In our sample, we do not find evidence that maltreatment reduces the likelihood that an individual will be in a stable, satisfying intimate partner relationship.”
Among the limitations noted by outside experts was the fact that researchers relied on questionnaires over depression symptoms rather than a diagnosis by a clinician to identify the participants with mental health difficulties.
Further child abuse survivors who find stable romantic relationships as adults may also find that these relationships help protect against depression.