Childhood maltreatment preceding depressive disorder at age 18 years: A prospective Brazilian birth cohort study

Erika Alejandra Giraldo Gallo, Christian Loret De Mola, Fernando Wehrmeister, Helen Gonçalves, Christian Kieling, Joseph Murray

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47 Scopus citations


Background Childhood maltreatment is linked with increased risk for mental illness in adolescence and adulthood. However, little evidence is available on whether different forms of maltreatment have specific effects, and no prospective studies in low- or middle-income countries have addressed this issue. Methods Participants in a population-based, birth cohort study in Pelotas, Brazil (N=3715) self-reported exposure to maltreatment (emotional abuse, physical neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence) in confidential questionnaires at age 15 years, and were assessed for major depression in interviews at age 18 years, using the MINI. Confounding variables concerning family characteristics were measured in interviews with mothers in the perinatal period and at age 11 years. Results Females exposed to emotional abuse (OR=2.7; 95%CI=1.9, 3.8) and domestic violence (OR=1.9; 95%CI=1.2, 2.9) were at increased risk for depression after adjustment for confounders and other types of maltreatment. Females exposed to two or more forms of maltreatment were at particularly high risk for depression (OR=4.1; 95%Cl=2.8, 6.1) compared with females not exposed to maltreatment. In adjusted analyses, maltreatment was not associated with depression for males. Limitations Detailed information about maltreatment such as timing and frequency was not available, and 1534 individuals were not included in the analyses, who had poorer and less educated mothers. Conclusions Emotional abuse and domestic violence are strong risk factors for major depression for females. Early intervention to prevent maltreatment and its consequences is critical, especially for girls exposed to poly-maltreatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-224
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Abuse
  • Birth cohort
  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Depression
  • Middle-income country
  • Neglect


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