Objective: Child abuse leads to multiple physical and psychosomatic sequelae. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the association between child abuse and constipation among schoolchildren.
Methods: Children 13 to 18 years of age were selected from 4 semiurban schools in Gampaha District, Sri Lanka. A self-administered questionnaire was used for data collection. Information regarding sociodemographic factors and gastrointestinal symptoms, child abuse, and somatisation were collected. Constipation was diagnosed using Rome III criteria.
Results: A total of 1792 children were included in the analysis (boys 975 [54.4%], mean age 14.4 years, standard deviation [SD] 1.3 years). One hundred thirty-eight (7.7%) fulfilled Rome III criteria for constipation. The number of children exposed to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse were, respectively, 438 (24.4%), 396 (22.1%), and 51 (2.8%). The prevalence of constipation was significantly higher in those exposed to sexual (5.8% vs 2.6% P = 0.03), emotional (40.9% vs 20.8%, P < 0.0001), and physical abuse (41.6% vs 23.2%, P < 0.0001). Mean somatisation score was higher in the total group of abused children with constipation (mean 18.6, SD 12.5) compared with those without (mean 13.9, SD 12.3; P = 0.027). Children with a history of abuse did not seek health care more often than children without this history. Patient-perceived severity of bowel symptoms was higher in children with physical abuse (23.7 vs 19.7 P = 0.001) and emotional abuse (25.4 vs 19.3 P < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Childhood constipation shows a significant association with physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Children with constipation complain of more somatic symptoms and bowel symptoms when they are exposed to abuse.