Double disadvantage: the influence of childhood maltreatment and community violence exposure on adolescent mental health

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Abstract

Background:

Childhood maltreatment is a key risk factor for maladjustment and psychopathology. Although maltreated youth are more likely to experience community violence, both forms of adversity are generally examined separately. Consequently, little is known about the unique and interactive effects that characterize maltreatment and community violence exposure (CVE) on mental health.

Methods:

Latent Profile Analysis (LPA) was applied to data from a community sample of high-risk adolescents and young adults (n = 204, M = 18.85) to categorize groups of participants with similar patterns of childhood (i.e. past) maltreatment exposure. Associations between childhood maltreatment, CVE and mental health outcomes were then explored using multivariate regression and moderation analyses.

Results:

Latent Profile Analysis identified three groups of individuals with low, moderate and severe levels of childhood maltreatment. Maltreatment was associated with more internalizing, externalizing, and trauma-related symptoms. By contrast, CVE showed independent associations with only externalizing and trauma-related symptoms. Typically, childhood maltreatment and CVE exerted additive effects; however, these forms of adversity interacted to predict levels of anger.

Conclusions:

Exposure to maltreatment and community violence is associated with increased levels of clinical symptoms. However, while maltreatment is associated with increased symptoms across a broad range of mental health domains, the impact of community violence is more constrained, suggesting that these environmental risk factors differentially impact mental health functioning.

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