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Five Forms of Childhood Trauma: Relationships With Aggressive Behavior in Adulthood

Randy A. Sansone, MD; Justin S. Leung, BA; and Michael W. Wiederman, PhD

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ABSTRACT

Objective: To examine relationships between 5 types of childhood trauma (witnessing violence, physical neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse) and an aggression score based on 21 self-reported aggressive behaviors in adulthood.

Method: Using a cross-sectional design and a self-report survey methodology, we examined relationships between 5 types of childhood trauma and the number of aggressive behaviors engaged in during adulthood in a consecutive sample of 342 internal medicine outpatients at Sycamore Primary Care Center, Kettering, Ohio, during October 2011. The primary outcome measure was the score on the Aggressive Behavior Questionnaire.

Results: In univariate analyses, each childhood trauma variable demonstrated a statistically significant relationship with the number of aggressive behaviors endorsed (P < .001). In addition, there was a linear relationship between the number of different forms of childhood trauma and the number of aggressive behaviors endorsed. In multivariate analyses, only 2 childhood trauma variables remained independently predictive: witnessing violence (P < .001) and emotional abuse (P < .05).

Conclusions: There appear to be indistinct relationships between trauma in childhood and aggression/violence in adulthood. In this sample of primary care patients, witnessing violence and experiencing emotional abuse were particularly relevant variables associated with the number of aggressive behaviors in adulthood.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2012;14(5):doi:10.4088/PCC.12m01353

Submitted: January 25, 2012; accepted March 23, 2012.

Published online: September 13, 2012.

Corresponding author: Randy A. Sansone, MD, 2115 Leiter Rd, Miamisburg, OH 45342 (Randy.sansone@khnetwork.org).