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One-Third of Canadian Adults Reported Being Abused as Children

Update Date: Apr 22, 2014 12:00 PM EDT

Child abuse, whether it is physical or mental, can have a drastic impact on the child's development and growth. In order to address child abuse, children must first report it, which can be very difficult for them to do. In a new study, researchers polled Canadian adults and found that nearly one-third of them had suffered from some kind of child abuse.

"From a public health standpoint, these findings highlight the urgent need to make prevention of child abuse a priority in Canada," Dr. Tracie Afifi, departments of Community Health Sciences and Psychiatry, University of Manitoba wrote in the paper.

For this study, Afifi and colleagues examined data on 23,395 adults aged 18 or older taken from the 2012 Canadian Community health Survey: Mental Health. The sample was representative of Canadian residents across 10 provinces. The researchers found that 32 percent of the participants stated that they experienced some kind of child abuse. Physical abuse was the most common at 26 percent. The second most common type of abuse at 10 percent was sexual abuse followed by exposure to partner violence at eight percent.

Men were more likely than women to have been physical abused where as women were more likely than men to have experienced sexual abuse and to have witnessed domestic violence. Overall, men had a higher rate of abuse than women. The researchers also found that people from the age group of 35 to 64 were more likely to report abuse than younger people from the age group of 18 to 34.

"All 3 types of child abuse were associated with all types of interview-diagnosed mental disorders, self-reported mental conditions, suicide ideation [thoughts of suicide] and suicide attempts in models adjusting for sociodemographic variables," the authors explained. "All health care providers should be aware of the relation between specific types of child abuse and certain mental conditions. Clinicians working in the mental health field should be skilled in assessing patients for exposure to abuse and should understand the implications for treatment."

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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