Adult mental health outcomes of child sexual abuse survivors born at extremely low birth weight
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The high prevalence of child sexual abuse (CSA) is concerning, particularly as survivors are at increased risk for multiple adverse outcomes, including poor mental health across the lifespan. Children born at an extremely low birth weight (ELBW; <1000g) and who experience CSA may be a group that is especially vulnerable to psychopathology later in life. However, no research has considered the mental health risks associated with being born at ELBW and experiencing CSA. In this study, we investigated the mental health of 179 ELBW survivors and 145 matched normal birth weight (NBW; >2500g) participants at ages 22-26 and 29-36. At age 22-26, CSA was associated with increased odds of clinically significant internalizing (OR=7.32, 95% CI: 2.31-23.23) and externalizing (OR=4.65, 95% CI: 1.11-19.51) problems among ELBW participants exposed to CSA compared to those who did not, though confidence intervals were wide. At age 29-36, CSA was linked to increased odds of any current (OR=3.43, 95% CI: 1.08-10.87) and lifetime (OR=7.09, 95% CI: 2.00-25.03) non-substance use psychiatric disorders, however, this did not hold after adjustment for covariates. Statistically significant differences in mental health outcomes were not observed in NBW participants exposed to CSA compared to NBW participants who were not exposed. Survivors of significant perinatal adversity who are also exposed to CSA may be at higher risk for psychopathology through the fourth decade of life.
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