Objective: To estimate the associations between various types of childhood and adult violence exposure, and their combined associations to adult mental health.
Method: This study was a cross-sectional telephone survey of the Norwegian adult population; 2,435 women and 2,092 men aged 18–75 participated (19.3% of those we tried to call and 42.9% of those who answered the phone). The interview comprised a broad array of violence exposure in both childhood and adulthood. Anxiety/depression was measured by the Hopkins Symptom Check List (HSCL-10).
Results: Victimisation was commonly reported, for example, child sexual abuse (women: 10.2%, men: 3.5%), childhood–parental physical violence (women: 4.9%, men: 5.1%), and lifetime forcible rape (women: 9.4%, men: 1.1%). All categories of childhood violence were significantly associated with adult victimisation, with a 2.2–5.0 times higher occurrence in exposed children (p<0.05 for all associations). Anxiety/depression (HSCL-10) associated with adult abuse increased with the number of childhood violence categories experienced (p<0.001). All combinations of childhood violence were significantly associated with anxiety/depression (p<0.001 for all associations). Individuals reporting psychological violence/neglect had the highest levels of anxiety/depression.
Conclusions: Results should be interpreted in light of the low response rate. Childhood violence in all its forms was a risk factor for victimisation in adulthood. Adult anxiety/depression was associated with both the number of violence categories and the type of childhood violence experienced. A broad assessment of childhood and adult violence exposure is necessary both for research and prevention purposes. Psychological violence and neglect should receive more research attention, especially in combination with other types of violence.
Keywords: Violence; child abuse; child sexual abuse; rape; mental health; revictimisation; epidemiology; anxiety; depression