Childhood adversity in a youth psychiatric population: prevalence and associated mental health problems

Rik Knipschild, Irma Hein, Sara Pieters, Ramon Lindauer, Iva A E Bicanic, Wouter Staal, Ad de Jongh, Helen Klip

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Background: Childhood adversity can have lasting negative effects on physical and mental health. This study contributes to the existing literature by describing the prevalence rates and mental health outcomes related to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among adolescents registered for mental health care.Methods: Participants in this cross-sectional study were youths (aged 12-18 years) who were referred to outpatient psychiatric departments in the Netherlands. Demographic information was collected from the medical records. The Child Trauma Screening Questionnaire (CTSQ) was used to examine the presence of ACEs and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). To assess mental health problems, we used the Dutch translation of the Youth Self Report. Descriptive statistics and frequencies were used to calculate prevalence rates across the various ACEs domains. ANOVA and chi-square tests were used to explore the relationship between ACEs and mental health.Results: Of the 1373 participants, 69.1% reported having experienced at least one ACE and 17.1% indicated exposure to four or more ACEs in their lives. Although there was substantial overlap among all ACE categories, the most frequently reported were bullying (49.2%), emotional abuse (17.8%), physical abuse (12.2%), and sexual abuse (10.1%). Female adolescents (72.7%) reported significantly more ACEs than their male counterparts (27.0%). Furthermore, a higher number of ACEs was associated with significantly more self-reported general mental health problems, an elevated prevalence of both mood and post-traumatic stress disorders, and a greater presence of two or more co-existing psychiatric diagnoses (comorbid psychiatric classification).Conclusions: This cross-sectional study on childhood adversity and its association with mental health showed that ACEs are highly prevalent in youth registered for mental health care. This study provides support for a graded and cumulative relationship between childhood adversity and mental health problems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2330880
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2024


  • ACE
  • Mental health
  • Ptsd
  • Salud Mental
  • Childhood Trauma
  • Childhood Adversity
  • Adolescentes
  • Adolescences
  • Tept
  • Trauma Infantil
  • Adversidad Infantil
  • Muestra Psiquiátrica Ambulatoria
  • Outpatient Psychiatric Sample
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Mental Health
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Male
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences


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