Evidence of individual differences in the long-term social, psychological, and cognitive consequences of child maltreatment

Rosa Sze Man WONG, Keith T. S. TUNG, Ko Ling CHAN, Wilfred H. S. WONG, Hing Wai TSANG, Clare H. Y. CHOW, Gilbert T. CHUA, Winnie W. Y. TSO, Jason C. YAM, Ian C. K. WONG, Patrick IP

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


Background: The prevalence and consequences of child maltreatment are alarming, but evidence from studies with long follow-up intervals are limited. This study examined the long-term consequences of child maltreatment in relation to age of onset and follow-up interval. 

Methods: The exposed group comprised 63 individuals (aged 13–34 years) with a first-time diagnosis of child maltreatment between 2001 and 2010, whereas the unexposed group comprised 63 individuals who were matched upon gender, age of onset, follow-up period, and poverty status at the index hospital admission but had no medical records of maltreatment in Hong Kong. The participants completed a set of questionnaires on executive functions and mental health and provided blood samples for measurement of IL-6 and IL-10 levels during a health assessment session. 

Results: Compared with the unexposed group, the exposed group reported poorer maternal care during childhood (β = −4.64, p < 0.001) and had lower family support (β = −2.97, p = 0.010) and higher inflammatory responses (IL-6: β = 0.15, p = 0.001; IL-10: β = 0.11, p = 0.011) at follow-up. Additionally, the associations of childhood maltreatment exposure with family support and maternal care differed by age of onset and the length of time since exposure. 

Conclusions: This matched cohort study highlights childhood maltreatment as a risk factor for systemic inflammation and an indicator of suboptimal social environment, both of which could persist over a long period of time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number88
JournalChild and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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