To investigate prospective associations between type of child abuse (physical, sexual, both), timing (childhood, young adulthood, both), and welfare receipt into middle-age.
Database linkage study using the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Kindergarten Children cohort born in 1980 and government administrative databases (N = 3020). We assessed parental tax returns, family and personal background characteristics (1982–1987). At age 22 years, participants answered retrospective questionnaires on experienced childhood abuse (physical, sexual abuse < age 18 years) and intimate partner violence (IPV) (ages 18–22). Main outcome was years on social assistance, on the basis of participant tax returns (ages 23–37 years). Analysis included weights for population representativeness.
Of 1690 participants (54.4% females) with available data, 22.4% reported childhood abuse only, 14.5% IPV only, and 18.5% both. Prevalence of childhood physical, sexual, and both was 20.4%, 12.2%, and 8.3%, respectively. Adjusting for socioeconomic background and individual characteristics, we found that childhood physical abuse alone and physical or sexual abuse combined were associated with a two-fold risk of welfare receipt, as compared to never-abused (adjusted incidence risk ratio 2.43, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.65–3.58; and adjusted incidence risk ratio 2.04, 95% CI, 1.29–3.23, respectively). Repeated abuse (childhood abuse combined with adult IPV) had a three-fold risk (adjusted incidence ratio 3.59, 95% CI, 2.39–5.37).
Abuse across several developmental periods (childhood and young adulthood) is associated with increased risks of long-term welfare receipt, independently of socioeconomic background. Results indicate a dose-response association. Early prevention and targeted identification are crucial to preventing economic adversity that may potentially lead to intergenerational poverty.