Child Maltreatment, Mental Health, and Self-Reported Health Among Adolescent Girls in Child Welfare: Mediating Pathways

Miriam Schiff*, Wendy F. Auslander, Donald R. Gerke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Child maltreatment is common in the US and has been shown to be associated with physical and psychological health problems in adolescence and adulthood. Based on the allostatic load theory, this study examined the association between different types of child maltreatment (emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and physical neglect) and self-rated health, and the mediating roles of post-traumatic stress and depression in these relationships. Participants were 249 girls involved in the child welfare system, ages 12–19 years, the majority of whom were African American. A one item self-reported general health measure, the Child Trauma Questionnaire-Short Form (CTQ-SF), Child PTSD Symptom Scale (CPSS) and the Child Depression Inventory (CDI) measured self-reported health, child maltreatment, and posttraumatic and depression symptoms, respectively. Higher levels of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and physical neglect were significantly associated with poorer ratings of health. PTSD and depression were significant mediators between histories of childhood emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and physical health. In conclusion, results indicate that the pathways from child abuse to physical health problems in adolescents are through psychological distress. Trauma focused interventions to reduce symptoms of PTSD and depression among this vulnerable group of adolescents are essential to improve health.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Trauma
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grant No. R49 CE001510 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded to Washington University. The authors acknowledge the collaboration of Children’s Division of Missouri of St. Louis City and County, and Jefferson County.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Abuse
  • Adolescent girls
  • Child maltreatment
  • Child welfare system
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Physical health


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