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Child Abuse Negl. 2001 Jul;25(7):923-44.

Psychiatric co-morbidity in caregivers and children involved in maltreatment: a pilot research study with policy implications.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Medical Center, PA 15213, USA.



The purpose of this study was to determine the lifetime incidence of mental disorders in caregivers involved in maltreatment and in their maltreated child.


Lifetime DSM-III-R and IV psychiatric diagnoses were obtained for 53 maltreating families, including at least one primary caregiver and one proband maltreated child or adolescent subject (28 males, 25 females), and for a comparison group of 46 sociodemographically, similar nonmaltreating families, including one proband healthy child and adolescent subject (22 males, 22 females).


Mothers of maltreated children exhibited a significantly greater lifetime incidence of anxiety disorders (especially post-traumatic stress disorder), mood disorders, alcohol and/or substance abuse or dependence disorder, suicide attempts, and comorbidity of two or more psychiatric disorders, compared to control mothers. Natural fathers or mothers' live-in mates involved in maltreatment exhibited a significantly greater lifetime incidence of an alcohol and/or substance abuse or dependence disorder compared to controls. The majority of maltreated children and adolescents reported anxiety disorders, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (from witnessing domestic violence and/or sexual abuse), mood disorders, suicidal ideation and attempts, and disruptive disorders. Most maltreated children (72%) suffered from comorbidity involving both emotional and behavioral regulation disorders.


Families involved in maltreatment manifest significant histories of psychiatric comorbidity. Policies which target identification and treatment of comorbidity may contribute to breaking the intergenerational transmission of maltreatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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