Childhood trauma histories in men and women assessed by the childhood attachment and relational trauma screen (CARTS) and the global psychotrauma screen (GPS) : Results from the global collaboration on traumatic stress (GC-TS)

Background: Whether there are biological sex differences in rates of childhood trauma exposure perpetrated by female versus male biological parents remains largely unknown. Moreover, the relative risk posed by various vulnerability factors for transdiagnostic mental health outcomes among females vs. males in adulthood has received insufficient attention.

Objective: To compare biological sex differences in the long-term impact of childhood abuse and neglect on transdiagnostic mental health outcomes, especially comparing the outcomes of childhood maltreatment perpetrated by biological  others vs. fathers.

Participants and setting: 3129 participants (2784 female [89 %]) were recruited online, the majority (82 %) of whom endorsed having a childhood trauma history and a high number of mental health problems.

Methods: Online surveys were administered. Specifically, the Childhood Attachment and Relational Trauma Screen (CARTS) was completed as a relationally-contextualized screening measure of both positive and traumatic-neglectful  experiences during childhood, comparing severity of perpetration by male vs. female biological parents. Further, the Global Psychotrauma Screen (GPS) was completed to assess the relative risk of five vulnerability factors, including childhood abuse and neglect, for long-term transdiagnostic mental health outcomes. Statistical analyses elucidate group differences between males and females primarily by way of t-tests and associated effect sizes (Cohen’s d).

Results: Biological sex differences were shown for childhood maltreatment perpetration by male vs. female biological parents, wherein responses to CARTS showed that females reported that their biological mothers exhibited less positivity (d = 0.21), less attachment security (d = 0.22), more negative feelings toward them (d = 0.28), were more emotionally abusive (d = 0.17), and held more negative relational beliefs about them (d = 0.24). Comparably, males reported that their biological fathers were more physically abusive (d = 0.15) and that they held more negative relational beliefs toward their fathers (d = 0.25). Risk factors including having a history of childhood trauma and neglect were associated with transdiagnostic mental health problems among both females (d = 0.57) and males (d = 0.46), with other risk factors evidencing similar results.

Conclusions: Childhood trauma and neglect is a risk factor for transdiagnostic mental health outcomes among both females and males, although the two biological sexes may exhibit different levels of risk of being maltreated by female and male  biological parents. Specifically, females reported having more emotionally abusive biological mothers, while males reported having more physically abusive biological fathers.

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Paul Frewen, Andrew Vincent, Miranda Olff | 2024
In: Child Abuse & Neglect ; ISSN: 0145-2134 | 149 | 106610
Adults, Assessment, Diagnosis, Effects, Emotional Abuse, Exposure, Females, Instruments, Males, Mental health, Neglect, Parents, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Predisposition, Psychiatric Disorders, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Statistical Analysis, Stressors, Vulnerability
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