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Addict Behav. 2014 May;39(5):949-58. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.01.015. Epub 2014 Feb 7.

The contribution of emotional maltreatment to alcohol dependence in a treatment-seeking sample.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany; Christoph-Dornier-Stiftung, Bielefeld, Germany. Electronic address:
  • 2Department of Psychology, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany; Christoph-Dornier-Stiftung, Bielefeld, Germany.
  • 3Department of Psychology, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany.


Studies reporting a link between child maltreatment and addiction have typically focused on physical and sexual abuse. In contrast, emotional maltreatment has rarely been studied in substance-abusing samples although it is associated with a wide range of dysfunction. The current study aimed to determine the specific impact of different types of maltreatment and peer victimization on alcohol dependence and to examine the potentially mediating role of psychopathology. A sample of treatment seeking adults with alcohol dependence (N=72) underwent an extensive clinical examination including both a standardized interview and self-report measures. Child maltreatment, peer victimization, severity of alcohol dependence, and general psychopathology were assessed. Regression analyses revealed that emotional maltreatment was the strongest predictor of alcohol dependence severity whereas a unique contribution of peer victimization was not found. Our findings suggest that emotional maltreatment might have a major role in the etiology of AD that seems to exceed the contribution of other abuse and victimization experiences. Thereby, the study underscores the need for considering child maltreatment experiences in the prevention and treatment of AD.

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Alcohol dependence; Child abuse; Early traumatization; Emotional maltreatment; Neglect; Substance use problems

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