Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. In this systematic review and meta-analysis of quasi-experimental studies, there was a moderate association between childhood maltreatment and mental health problems.

2. Furthermore, this association between childhood maltreatment and mental health problems was sustained across different quasi-experimental methods and various psychiatric disorders.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Through exposure to things such as abuse and neglect, childhood maltreatment may result in the development of mental health issues later in life. Although it is known that there is an association between childhood maltreatment and mental health problems, the causal nature of this association remains poorly understood. As a result, the objective of the present study was to review quasi-experimental studies investigating the association between childhood maltreatment and mental health to elucidate the causal nature of their relationship.

Of the identified records, 34 quasi-experimental studies (n=54,646 participants, 56.72% female) were included from various sources from database inception to January 2022. Quasi-experimental studies that included measures of childhood maltreatment and examined the association between maltreatment and mental health outcomes were included. The review was performed using PRISMA and MOOSE guidelines. Statistical analysis was performed using multi-level random-effects meta-analysis models. Study quality was assessed using an adapted version of the Newcastle-Ottawa scale. The primary outcome was mental health outcomes.

The results demonstrated that after adjustment for confounding, child maltreatment had a small association with mental health problems. Furthermore, compared to other forms of abuse, institutional neglect and emotional abuse both demonstrated a stronger correlation with mental health issues. Despite these results, the study was limited by the quasi-experimental design, which may have introduced biases. Nonetheless, the present study was the first meta-analysis to investigate causality in the relationship between childhood maltreatment and mental health.

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