The Long-term Health Outcomes of Childhood Abuse

An Overview and a Call to Action


  • Received from the Department of Sociology and Center for Demography and Ecology (KWS, JS, DK), the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute (JS, MC), and the Department of Medicine and Center for Women's Health and Women's Health Research (MC), University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis; the Department of Sociology (DK) at the University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.

Address correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr. Molly Carnes, Department of Medicine and Psychiatry, Director, Center for Women's Health and Women's Health Research, University of Wisconsin, Meriter Hospital 6West, 202 South Park Street, Madison, WI 53715 (e-mail:


While the association between abuse in childhood and adverse adult health outcomes is well established, this link is infrequently acknowledged in the general medical literature. This paper has 2 purposes: (1) to provide a broad overview of the research on the long-term effects of child abuse on mental and physical health including some of the potential pathways, and (2) to call for collaborative action among clinicians, psychosocial and biomedical researchers, social service agencies, criminal justice systems, insurance companies, and public policy makers to take a comprehensive approach to both preventing and dealing with the sequelae of childhood abuse.