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Aging Ment Health. 2010 May;14(4):489-501. doi: 10.1080/13607860903191382.

The long-term impact of childhood abuse on internalizing disorders among older adults: the moderating role of self-esteem.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA. sachs@psy.fsu.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

First, to determine if childhood experiences of abuse have an impact on internalizing disorders (e.g., anxiety and depressive disorders) among older adults. Second, we wish to determine if self-esteem plays a role in explaining the relationship between abuse and internalizing disorders.

METHOD:

First, we conducted an analysis on a population sample of participants aged 50 years or older (mean age = 67 years; SD = 10.3) assessed at two time points, three years apart (Wave 1, N = 1460; Wave 2, N = 1090). We examined the relationship between reports of childhood abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual) and internalizing disorders. Second, we determined the role self-esteem played in explaining the relationship.

RESULTS:

We found that childhood experiences of abuse assessed at Wave 1 predicted the number of DSM-IV internalizing disorders occurring three years later. Demonstrating the specificity of self-esteem; we found self-esteem, but not emotional reliance, to moderate the relationship between abuse and internalizing disorders such that childhood abuse had more negative effects on those with low self-esteem compared to those with higher self-esteem. Contrary to prediction, self-esteem did not mediate the relationship between abuse and internalizing disorders.

CONCLUSION:

The negative effects of childhood abuse persist for many years, even into older adulthood. However, contrary to the findings in younger adults, self-esteem was not correlated with childhood abuse in older adults. Moreover, childhood abuse only had a negative effect on those who had low self-esteem. It may be through the process of lifespan development that some abused individuals come to separate out the effects of abuse from their self-concept.

PMID:
20455125
DOI:
10.1080/13607860903191382
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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