Individual- and relationship-level factors related to better mental health outcomes following child abuse: Results from a nationally representative Canadian sample

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The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 61(12), 776-788.

Objective: Child abuse can have devastating mental health consequences. Fortunately, not all individuals exposed to child abuse will suffer from poor mental health. Understanding what factors are related to good mental health following child abuse can provide evidence to inform prevention of impairment. Our objectives were to 1) describe the prevalence of good, moderate, and poor mental health among respondents with and without a child abuse history; 2) examine the relationships between child abuse and good, moderate, and poor mental health outcomes; 3) examine the relationships between individual- and relationship-level factors and better mental health outcomes; and 4) determine if individual- and relationship-level factors moderate the relationship between child abuse and mental health.

Method: Data were from the nationally representative 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health (n = 23,395; household response rate = 79.8%; 18 years and older). Good, moderate, and poor mental health was assessed using current functioning and well-being, past-year mental disorders, and past-year suicidal ideation.

Results: Only 56.3% of respondents with a child abuse history report good mental health compared to 72.4% of those without a child abuse history. Individual- and relationship-level factors associated with better mental health included higher education and income, physical activity, good coping skills to handle problems and daily demands, and supportive relationships that foster attachment, guidance, reliable alliance, social integration, and reassurance of worth.

Conclusions: This study identifies several individual- and relationship-level factors that could be targeted for intervention strategies aimed at improving mental health outcomes following child abuse.

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Canadian CW research
Journal article