The physical health of women in primary care who were maltreated as children

Donna S. Martsolf, Claire Burke Draucker, Terri R. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Current literature suggests that women with a history of childhood maltreatment are troubled by multiple, varied, and vague physical symptoms. The purpose of this study was to test a causal theoretical model that identifies the relationships among childhood maltreatment, chronic stress, and the health status of women seeking primary care. Survey design was used with a sample of 159 women, ages 18-88, who were seeking primary health care. Subjects completed four measures of childhood trauma and health. Forty-seven percent of the women reported a history of moderate or severe childhood maltreatment. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the hypothesized relationships among the variables. Emotional abuse predicted physical abuse, sexual abuse, and current trauma symptoms. Current trauma symptoms, in turn, were moderately predictive of perceived general health and strongly predictive of perceived mental health and physical symptoms. Subjects who experienced physical neglect or emotional neglect or abuse, with or without physical or sexual abuse, differed significantly from those who had not experienced physical neglect or emotional neglect or abuse. These two groups of subjects differed on trauma symptoms and perceived general and mental health. Primary health care professionals need to address issues of both childhood contact abuse and childhood emotional abuse. Interventions by mental health professionals should aim to assist women to resolve issues related to childhood maltreatment in order to positively affect their general and physical health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-59
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Emotional Abuse
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 22 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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