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J Pediatr. 1990 May;116(5):815-21.

Health risk behaviors and attempted suicide in adolescents who report prior maltreatment.

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Department of Pediatrics, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence 02903.


We hypothesized that high school students who experienced prior maltreatment would be more likely than their peers to report health risk behaviors and suicide attempts. Before the establishment of a high school-based clinic, an anonymous needs assessment survey was completed by 600 adolescents (grades 9 to 12). Sociodemographic information was obtained and questions were asked about physical and sexual abuse, health-related behaviors and habits, and suicide attempts. Thirteen percent of the adolescents had been maltreated: 5.2% reported prior physical abuse, 5.4% sexual abuse, and 2.7% both physical and sexual abuse. Multivariate statistical techniques were used to clarify how previous abuse was related to adolescent risk-taking behaviors and suicide. Students with a history of physical abuse were three times more likely than non-abused peers to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, almost twice as likely to use illicit drugs, six times more likely to self-induce vomiting, and five times more likely to attempt suicide. A student with a history of prior sexual abuse had a three and one-half times greater chance of being sexually active and was more than three times more likely to attempt suicide. These data on a nonclinical, nondeviant population of adolescents indicate that physical or sexual abuse in childhood may have a significant impact on adolescent health risk behaviors and suicide attempts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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