Prior research reports stronger associations between childhood maltreatment and adult psychopathology when maltreatment is assessed retrospectively compared with prospectively, casting doubt on the mental health risk conferred by maltreatment and on the validity of retrospective reports.
To investigate associations of psychopathology with prospective
v.retrospective maltreatment ascertainment. Method
A nationally representative sample of respondents aged 16–27 years (
n= 1413) in New Zealand completed a retrospective assessment of maltreatment and DSM-IV mental disorders. Survey data were linked with a national child protection database to identify respondents with maltreatment records (prospective ascertainment). Results
Childhood maltreatment was associated with elevated odds of mood, anxiety and drug disorders (odds ratios = 2.1–4.1), with no difference in association strength between prospective and retrospective groups. Prospectively ascertained maltreatment predicted unfavourable depression course involving early onset, chronicity and impairment.
Prospectively and retrospectively assessed maltreatment elevated the risk of psychopathology to a similar degree. Prospectively ascertained maltreatment predicted a more unfavourable depression course.