Indexed on: 01 Jul '96Published on: 01 Jul '96Published in: The American journal of psychiatry
In this study the authors measured the number of adults in three U.S. communities who reported abusing and neglecting children in their lifetime and assessed the relative impact of sociodemographic characteristics and lifetime diagnosis of mental disorders on both child abuse and child neglect.A total of 9,841 respondents, identified through a household sampling procedure for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, were included in the analysis. Self-reported lifetime histories of abuse and neglect of children were measured in the antisocial personality module of the NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule.In the study sample, 147 adults (1.49%) stated that they had abused children, and 140 adults (1.42%) stated that they had neglected children. A total of 58.5% of those who reported abuse of children, and 69.3% of those who reported having neglected a child, had a lifetime diagnosis of a mental disorder. Increased odds of reports of both abuse and neglect were associated with having a greater number of children in the household. Low socioeconomic status was a risk factor for neglecting, but not abusing, children. In multivariate analyses, a lifetime history of alcohol disorder was associated with abuse and neglect, affective disorders with abuse, and anxiety disorders with neglecting children.In light of the associations between mental disorders and mistreatment of children, public health policies designed to prevent child abuse and neglect might be enhanced by an increased focus on interventions targeted at individuals with mental disorders.