Heightened risk of pain in young adult women with a history of childhood maltreatment: A prospective longitudinal study

Sarah J. Beal, Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, Christopher King, William Black, Jaclyn Barnes, Jennie G. Noll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


A child maltreatment history is reported more frequently among adults with chronic pain compared with the general population; unfortunately, studies have primarily relied upon retrospective maltreatment reports by adults with chronic pain. This prospective study assessed pain symptoms in a cohort of young adult women with a documented history of child maltreatment, compared with a matched cohort of women who did not experience childhood maltreatment. Young women (N = 477) were recruited between ages 14 to 17 years and followed annually to age 19. Of these women, 57% experienced maltreatment (ie, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, neglect; n = 273) substantiated by child welfare record. Maltreated women were demographically matched to nonmaltreated women, also confirmed by child welfare record. In adolescence, post-traumatic stress was assessed. Women were contacted as young adults (Mage = 24.76; n = 383) and surveyed about their pain experiences, including the presence of pain in the past week, pain severity (0-10), and number of body areas with pain. Mediation path analyses examining the impact of maltreatment and adolescent post-traumatic stress on young adult pain were estimated through structural equation modeling. As adults, women who had experienced child maltreatment reported higher pain intensity, a greater number of pain locations, and were more likely to experience pain in the previous week than nonmaltreated women. Adolescent post-traumatic stress partially explained the effects of maltreatment on pain. Young adult women who experienced child maltreatment are at higher risk of pain, particularly when they also experienced post-traumatic stress as adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-165
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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