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.