Profiles of childhood trauma and psychopathology: US National Epidemiologic Survey

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Purpose: Childhood trauma may increase vulnerability to numerous specific psychiatric disorders, or a generalised liability to experience dimensions of internalising or externalising psychopathology. We use a nationally representative sample (N=34,653) to examine the long-term consequences of childhood trauma and their combined effect as predictors of subsequent psychopathology.

Methods: Data from the US National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions were used. Latent class analysis was used to identify childhood trauma profiles and multinomial logistic regression to validate and explore these
profiles with a range of associated demographic and household characteristics. We used Structural Equation Modelling to substantiate initial latent class analysis findings by investigating a range of mental health diagnoses. Internalising and
externalising domains of psychopathology were regressed on trauma profiles and associated demographic and household characteristics. We used Differential Item Functioning to examine associations between the trauma groups and a number of
psychiatric disorders within internalising and externalising dimensions of mental health.

Results: We found a 3-class model of childhood trauma in which 85% of participants were allocated to a low trauma class; 6% to a multi-type victimization class (reporting exposures for all the child maltreatment criteria); and 9% to a situational trauma class (exposed to a range of traumas). Confirmatory Factor Analysis revealed an internalising–externalising spectrum was used to represent lifetime reporting patterns of mental health disorders. Both trauma groups showed specific gender and race/ethnicity differences, related family discord and increased psychopathology. Additionally, we found significant associations
between the trauma groups and specific diagnoses within the internalising externalising spectrum of mental health.

Conclusions: The underlying patterns in the exposure to types of interpersonal and non-interpersonal traumas and associated mental health highlight the need to screen for particular types of childhood traumas when individuals present with symptoms of psychiatric disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Early online date3 May 2018
Publication statusPublished online - 3 May 2018


  • Childhood trauma
  • Multi-type victimization
  • Interpersonal trauma
  • Internalising
  • Externalising
  • Mental Illness
  • Latent class analysis


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