Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Ellen Flannery-Schroeder

Abstract

Childhood maltreatment is a significant public health issue that has been linked to a myriad of negative long-term mental and physical health consequences. While the devastating health outcomes have been well established in the literature, the potential mechanisms of this link are less understood. In an effort to elucidate this relationship, the present study examined maladaptive cognitions (i.e., posttraumatic cognitions related to the self and world) that can form as a result of experiencing the trauma of maltreatment. Specifically, this cross-sectional study investigated the association between childhood maltreatment and self-reported mental and physical health concerns among a sample of young adults. Participants were 287 undergraduate students (ages 18-29 years) recruited from a mid-sized northeastern university. Retrospective, self-report questionnaires were used to assess childhood maltreatment, posttraumatic cognitions and current mental and physical health functioning. Data were analyzed using structural equation modeling. Childhood maltreatment was found to be significantly associated with poorer mental and physical health functioning. Support was found for posttraumatic cognitions as mediators in this relationship. Findings provide support for childhood maltreatment as an important risk factor for adverse long-term health outcomes, with posttraumatic cognitions playing an important role in this relationship. Maladaptive cognitions that form as a result of experiencing the trauma of maltreatment may be particularly useful points of intervention in order to mitigate health concerns in adulthood.

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