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Do Race, Neglect, and Childhood Poverty Predict Physical Health in Adulthood? A Multilevel Prospective Analysis

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2014
11 pages
Using a sample of 675 court-substantiated cases of childhood neglect and matched controls followed into adulthood (median age of 41), this study identified the unique and interactive effects of childhood neglect, race, and family and neighborhood poverty on physical health in adulthood.
The findings suggest that a person’s race should be considered when examining the long-term health effects of childhood neglect. The study found that childhood neglect predicted C-reactive protein (CRP) in Whites. High CRP levels are indicative of inflammation related to heart disease. This was not true for Black participants, however. On the other hand, childhood family poverty predicted increased risk for hypertension among Black participants, but not White participants. The findings also indicate that in the context of other childhood factors, neglect does not uniquely place children at risk for long-term hypertension and pulmonary disease. Future research should examine protective mechanisms for neglected children, particularly neglected children placed in foster care. Approximately 60 percent of the neglected children in this sample were in foster care, suggesting that characteristics of good out-of-home placements had a protective effect that might have modified the potentially adverse trajectories often found in neglected children. Data for this study were collected as part of a large prospective cohort design study (Leventhal, 1982; Schulsinger, Mednick, and Knop, 1981) in which abused and/or neglected children were matched with non-abused and non-neglected children and followed into adulthood. The original sample of maltreated children (N=908 abused/neglected, 697 of whom were neglected) was composed of all substantiated cases of childhood physical, sexual abuse, and neglect processed from 1967 to 1971 in the county juvenile (family) or adult criminal courts of a Midwestern metropolitan area. Cases of abuse and neglect were restricted to children 11 years old or less at the time of the incident. 3 tables and 89 references

Date Published: March 1, 2014