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Child Abuse Negl. 2003 Jul;27(7):841-53.

Does childhood victimization increase the risk of early death? A 25-year prospective study.

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Center for Alcohol Studies, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, USA.



Abuse and neglect have been shown to influence the mental and physical health of children; however, few studies have examined whether childhood victimization leads to an increased risk of early death.


This paper compares mortality data and examines cause of death for a sample of 908 abused and/or neglected individuals and 667 matched controls who were followed up into young adulthood.


Using data from a prospective cohort design study, a large group of children with substantiated cases of abuse (physical and sexual) and/or neglect approximately 25 years ago were matched with a control group of children and both groups were followed up into adulthood. The National Death Index was searched twice and official death certificates were collected for most individuals who had died.


Surprisingly, there were no significant differences in rates of mortality for the two groups (abuse and neglect = 3.5%, controls = 3.0%). Furthermore, victims of child abuse and neglect were not more likely to experience a violent death.


Our results do not provide support for a heightened rate of early death in abused and neglected children followed up into young adulthood. Limitations of the study are discussed as well as potential reasons for these unexpected findings.

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