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.
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- Adolescent girls
- Child maltreatment
- Child welfare system
- Physical health