Cognitive and educational outcomes of maltreated and non-maltreated youth: A birth cohort study

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Mills, Ryan
Kisely, Steve
Alati, Rosa
Strathearn, Lane
Najman, Jake M
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2019
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Abstract

Objectives: Previous research suggests that child maltreatment is associated with adverse outcomes, but the potential impact on cognitive and educational outcomes into adulthood has rarely been studied using a birth cohort design. The aim of this study is to investigate whether child maltreatment is associated with adverse outcomes in cognitive function, high school completion and employment by the age of 21.

Methods: Longitudinal birth cohort study commencing in the prenatal period, with mothers and infants followed up to age 21. Of the original birth cohort of 7223, 3778 (52.3%) young people participated at age 21. Child maltreatment was identified by linkage with prospectively collected data from the relevant government agency. Associations between child maltreatment (abuse and neglect) and the outcomes were adjusted for relevant sociodemographic and perinatal variables.

Results: After full adjustment, young people who had been notified as cases of child maltreatment had reduced performance on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test by over a quarter of a standard deviation (coefficient = −2.85, p = 0.004). Maltreated young people also had three times the odds of failing to complete high school (odds ratio = 3.12, p < 0.001) and more than twice the odds of not being engaged in either study or employment at age 21 (odds ratio = 2.38, p < 0.001). Both abuse and neglect were similarly associated with adverse outcomes.

Conclusion: Child maltreatment, including both abuse and neglect, is associated with adverse cognitive, educational and employment outcomes in young adulthood. This adds further impetus to efforts to prevent child maltreatment and assist young people who have experienced it.

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AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY

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53

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3

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Biomedical and clinical sciences

Psychology

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