Researchers from University College London in the UK showed that the potential socioeconomic impact of child
neglect and abuse may persist for decades.
They found that neglected children often had worse reading and mathematics skills in adolescence than their peers, which could hamper their ability to find work.
These factors did not explain the poorer standard of living for those reporting child abuse.
They followed the lives of 8,076 people from birth in 1958 until the age of 50 years, examining key socioeconomic
A person’s economic circumstances at the age of 50 are important because this is close to peak earning capacity and
poor living standards at this age can signal hardship and associated ill health during old age.
The study found adults who had been neglected in childhood were approximately 70 per cent more likely to have time off work due to long-term sickness and not own their home at 50 years, compared to their peers who had not suffered from child abuse and neglect.
The risk of a poor outcome was greatest for people experiencing multiple types of child maltreatment.
For example those experiencing two or more types of child maltreatment, such as both child neglect and physical abuse, had more than double the risk of long-term sickness absence from work, compared to those experiencing no child maltreatment.
“Our findings suggest that maltreated children grow up to face socioeconomic disadvantage. This is important because such disadvantage could in turn influence the health of individuals affected and also that of their children,” said Snehal Pinto Pereira from UCL.
“As well as highlighting the importance of prevention of maltreatment in childhood, our research identified poor
reading and mathematics skills as a likely connecting factor from child neglect to poor adult outcomes,” she said.
“This suggests that action is needed to improve and support these abilities in neglected children,” she added.
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.
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