Witnessing parental domestic violence in childhood linked to mental illness in adulthood

Summary: More than 22% of adults who were chronically exposed to parental domestic violence during childhood developed major depressive disorder later in life. 1 in 6 adults who witnessed VDP developed anxiety disorders and over 25% later developed substance use disorders.

Source: University of Toronto

A new study from the University of Toronto has found that one-fifth (22.5%) of adults who were exposed to chronic parental domestic violence during childhood developed major depressive disorder at some point in their lives. . This was much higher than the 9.1% of those who had no history of parental domestic violence.

“Our findings underscore the risk of long-term negative consequences of chronic domestic violence for children, even when the children themselves are not abused,” says author Esme Fuller-Thomson, director of the Institute for Life. Course and Aging from the University of Toronto. of Toronto and professor at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW).

“Social workers and healthcare professionals must work vigilantly to prevent domestic violence and support both survivors of such abuse and their children”

Parental domestic violence (PDV) often occurs in the context of other adversities, including childhood physical and sexual abuse, making it difficult to examine mental health outcomes associated with parental domestic violence alone in the absence of violence during childhood.

To solve this problem, the authors excluded from their study anyone who had suffered physical or sexual abuse in childhood.

The study’s nationally representative sample ultimately included 17,739 respondents from the Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health, 326 of whom reported witnessing VPD more than 10 times before age 16 years old, which was defined as “chronic VDP”.

One in six adults (15.2%) who had suffered from chronic VDP reported later developing an anxiety disorder. Only 7.1% of those who had not been exposed to parental violence also reported having experienced an anxiety disorder at some point in their life.

“Many children exposed to domestic violence from their parents remain constantly alert and perpetually anxious, fearing that any conflict will escalate into aggression. Therefore, it is not surprising that decades later, in adulthood, people with a history of VDP have a high prevalence of anxiety disorders,” said co-author Deirdre Ryan-Morissette, a recent graduate. a master’s degree in social work from the University of Toronto. FIFSW.

More than a quarter of adults (26.8%) who were exposed to chronic VDP in childhood developed substance use disorders, compared to 19.2% of those who were not exposed to this early adversity.

However, the conclusions were not all negative. More than three in five adult survivors of chronic VDP were in excellent mental health, free of any mental illness, substance dependence, or suicidal thoughts in the past year; were happy and/or satisfied with their lives and reported high levels of social and psychological well-being, despite being exposed to such distressing childhood experiences.

Although the prevalence of thriving mental health was lower among those exposed to chronic VDP compared to those whose parents were not violent towards each other (62.5% versus 76.1%), it was still much higher. higher than the authors had expected.

“We were heartened to discover that so many adults have overcome their exposure to this early adversity and are free from mental illness and thriving,” said co-author Shalhevet Attar-Schwartz, professor at the Paul Baerwald School of Hebrew University Social Work and Social Welfare.

One in six adults (15.2%) who had suffered from chronic VDP reported later developing an anxiety disorder. Image is in public domain

“Our analysis indicated that social support was an important factor. Among those who had experienced the VDP, those with more social support were significantly more likely to be in excellent mental health.

The study was limited by several factors. The Canadian Community Health Survey did not include important information about WTP such as duration in years, respondent’s relationship to abuser, or severity of abuse.

The study was based on cross-sectional data collected at one point in time; it would have been much better to have longitudinal rather than cross-sectional data.

“Our study highlights the need for more research on interventions for mental illness, substance use disorders, and social isolation in people exposed to VDP, with the goal of having a greater proportion of those who experience childhood difficulties achieving optimal mental health,” Fuller-Thomson said. .

About this Mental Health and Domestic Violence Research News

Author: Dale Duncan
Source: University of Toronto
Contact: Dale Duncan – University of Toronto
Picture: Image is in public domain

Original research: Access closed.
Achieving optimal mental health despite exposure to chronic parental domestic violence: what pathways are associated with resilience in adulthood?” by Esme Fuller-Thomson et al. Family Violence Diary


Abstract

See also

This is a diagram of the study

Achieving optimal mental health despite exposure to chronic parental domestic violence: what pathways are associated with resilience in adulthood?

Despite the many adverse consequences of exposure to parental domestic violence (PDV), some people with a history of PDV thrive in adulthood and achieve complete mental health (CMH).

This study examines whether lifetime history of mental illness (depression, anxiety, substance use disorder) and social support (social provision scale) mediate the relationship between exposure to PDV and CMH in adulthood.

A sample of 17,739 respondents from the Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health 2012 including 326 with a history of chronic VDP (> 10 times before age 16).

MHC has been defined as: 1) the absence of mental illness and substance dependence; 2) happiness or life satisfaction; and 3) psychological and social well-being. Trajectory scans were used to test the lens. People exposed to PDV had a significantly lower prevalence of HCM compared to the general population (62.5% versus 76.1%, p

Evidence of mediation was found for depression (indirect effect= -.19; 95% CI = -.30, -.09, p= .002), anxiety (indirect effect= -.12; 95% CI = -0.20, -0.05, p= 0.005), substance use disorder (indirect effect= -.04; 95% CI = -0.07, -0.01, p= .016) and social benefits (indirect effect= -.13; 95% CI = -0.19, -0.07, p

It is important to consider mediators, such as mental health and social support, when addressing the negative consequences of witnessing VDP.

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