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Childhood abuse and neglect histories in low-income women: prevalence in a menopausal population

Medrano, Martha A. MD, MPH1; Brzyski, Robert G. MD, PhD2; Bernstein, David P. PhD3; Ross, Jeanette S. MD2; Hyatt-Santos, Jill M. MPA2

doi: 10.1097/01.GME.0000087984.28957.93

Objectives To examine the prevalence of self-reported childhood abuse and neglect in a primary care population of menopausal women.

Design A cross-sectional questionnaire-based study.

Results Three of four women (119/160, 74%) reported histories of childhood abuse and neglect. The prevalence of emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, and physical neglect were 43%, 35%, 33%, 49%, and 44%, respectively. Eleven percent of the sample reported maltreatment in all five categories of trauma. Fifteen percent of women studied met criteria for severe-extreme levels of maltreatment, usually in more than one category.

Conclusions A high prevalence of self-reported childhood trauma was detected in our low-income population of menopausal women attending primary care clinics. Because of the potential impact of childhood trauma on physical and mental health, clinicians need to inquire about childhood maltreatment in women of menopausal age and appropriately refer women to mental health intervention and treatment.

From the 1Department of Psychiatry and 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX; and the 3Department of Psychology, Fordham University, New York, NY.

Received February 22, 2003; revised and accepted July 2, 2003.

This study was supported by a grant from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, South Texas Health Research Center (RGB, principal investigator).

Address reprint requests to: Martha Medrano, MD, MPH, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Department of Psychiatry, Mail Code 7745, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900. E-mail:

©2004The North American Menopause Society