Childhood trauma affects women differently than men later in life, study finds

Men and women are affected very differently by childhood trauma. Women who experience psychological problems later in life are more likely to have suffered emotional trauma and sexual abuse during childhood. Mental health symptoms in men, on the other hand, are more likely to be due to emotional and physical neglect in childhood. This is the conclusion of an international study led by Maastricht University (UM).

The researchers will present the findings Sunday at the European Congress of Psychiatry in Paris. An international team of researchers from the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the United States analyzed data from 791 volunteers regarding trauma in their childhood. These volunteers were also tested for current psychological problems such as phobias, anxiety or depression. This allowed the researchers to link the type of childhood trauma to the symptoms the same individuals showed as adults.

They concluded that both men and women experience severe psychological consequences of childhood emotional abuse, but that this association is twice as strong in women as in men. In contrast, the researchers were able to link physical and emotional neglect in childhood to later psychological problems in men, but not in women.

According to the Maastricht University (UM), childhood trauma as a risk factor for many psychiatric disorders has been known for some time, but not with such gender-specific characteristics. “Identifying gender-specific aspects of the impact of trauma on mental health problems later in life could be very valuable for exploring mechanisms of resilience and vulnerability,” said Bart Rutten, co-researcher and professor of psychiatry at UM. “Over time, this will definitely be important for more patient-centered treatments.”

Reporting by ANP

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