Send to

Choose Destination
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

Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA.



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.


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.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Taylor & Francis
Loading ...
Support Center