This study sought to determine whether downward drift explains relationships among childhood maltreatment, psychiatric disorders, and residence in unhealthy neighborhoods.
Using data from a prospective cohort design study, individuals with court substantiated cases of child abuse and/neglect (ages 0–11 during the years 1967–1971) and matched controls were followed up in adulthood. Mental health symptoms and neighborhood disadvantage were measured in young (Mage = 29) and middle adulthood (Mage = 40). Physical disorder and social cohesion were also measured in middle adulthood. Childhood maltreatment increased risk for more symptoms of depression, anxiety, and illicit drug use in young adulthood and depression and anxiety in middle adulthood. Childhood maltreatment negatively impacted neighborhood residence in young and middle adulthood, increasing a person’s risk of living in neighborhoods with higher levels of physical disorder and economic disadvantage, and lower levels of social cohesion. Neighborhood disadvantage in young adulthood did not increase risk for psychiatric symptoms in middle adulthood. With one exception, neighborhood disadvantage earlier in life, not psychiatric symptoms, helped explain the relationship between childhood maltreatment and living in unhealthy neighborhoods. The negative impact of childhood maltreatment was evident earlier in life and continued into middle adulthood. (Publisher Abstract Provided)