Child abuse and neglect appear to boost a person's risk of attempting suicide, learning difficulties and drug or alcohol problems as an adult, new findings show.
Interviews with 500 people in their 20s and 30s, about half of them physically abused or neglected before age 11, found their difficulties extended far beyond the delinquency and criminal action uncovered in a previous study, said Cathy Spatz Widom of the State University of New York in Albany.Preliminary results indicate long-term consequences of childhood victimization include depression and suicide attempts, impaired reading ability, low IQ and alcohol and drug abuse, Widom said.
About 18 percent of the adults who had been victims of childhood abuse or neglect had attempted suicide compared with 7.5 percent of their non-victimized counterparts and 3 percent of the general population, the study showed.
Abused or neglected girls were more apt to attempt suicide than abused or neglected boys, Widom said.
The victimized group had an average IQ of 87 - 10 points lower than the control group and 13 points below the general average IQ of 100. Standard tests also found "severely depressed" reading ability among the abused and neglected, Widom said.
It is not known whether abuse and neglect lowered the subjects' IQs or if they had lower intelligence potential to begin with, Widom said.
About 45 percent of the abused and neglected group mistreated alcohol, and 25 percent were drug users, compared with 35 percent and 23 percent respectively for the controls.
Furthermore, when compared with adults of similar family background who had not been abused or neglected, "a large proportion" of the abused and neglected were unemployed or held low-level jobs, the criminal justice professor said.