Canadian Research in Brief: 24th Edition (December 2010)


The articles listed below can be accessed through the corresponding journal website or accessed at a local library or university.

Canadian Research in Brief: 24th Edition (December 2010)

Fuller-Thomson, E., Brennenstuhl, S., & Frank, J. (2010). The association between childhood physical abuse and heart disease in adulthood: Findings from a representative community sample. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(9), 689 – 698.

The authors identify physical abuse in childhood as an important early life stressor. Although research has been conducted examining the relationship between childhood physical abuse and a variety of negative mental and physical health outcomes in adulthood, the relationship between childhood physical abuse and heart disease has not been studied extensively. This study used data from the 2005 cycle of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), a cross-sectional survey conducted by Statistics Canada. The present analysis utilized data from an unweighted sample of 13,093 males and females from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as information about childhood physical abuse was collected from these provinces alone in the CCHS. The authors conducted seven consecutive logistic regression analyses, with heart disease as the outcome. The final model adjusted for a wide range of variables, including gender, race, age, childhood stressors (i.e., parental divorce, parental addictions, parental unemployment), adult health risk behaviours (i.e., BMI, smoking, alcohol use, physical activity level), adult stressors (i.e., educational attainment, daily self-reported stress level, diabetes diagnosis), history of mood disorder, and high blood pressure. These variables were adjusted for because previous research has identified that these factors are associated with heart disease. The results of this research demonstrate that 7% of the sample reported childhood physical abuse, and 4% reported health disease as diagnosed by a health professional. When the model adjusted for the wide range of risk factors for heart disease, individuals who reported experiencing childhood physical abuse still had 45% higher odds of having a diagnosis of heart disease, as compared to those that did not report abuse. The results suggest a relationship between physical abuse in childhood and elevated risk of heart disease. This research is limited by its cross-sectional nature, its reliance on retrospective self-report accounts of physical abuse, and its lack of information about the frequency and severity of physical abuse and other forms of maltreatment. The authors conclude that more research in this area is necessary.

Peter, T. (2009). Exploring taboos: Comparing male- and female-perpetrated child sexual abuse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24(7), 1111 – 1128.

This study uses data from the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, 1998 (CIS-1998) to compare cases of male and female-perpetrated child sexual abuse. There were a total of 345 sexual abuse investigations for which information about the sex of the perpetrator was available: 89% of perpetrators were male and 11% were female. Investigations involving female perpetrators were more likely to involve two or more children victimized by the same perpetrator, to have a co-perpetrator identified by the investigating worker, and to involve younger victims. Investigations involving male perpetrators, compared to those involving female perpetrators, were more likely to have been referred to child welfare by a professional. The author concludes that more research into female-perpetrated child sexual abuse is necessary to better understand these differences. Results should be interpreted cautiously, as analyses were based on only 37 investigations involving female perpetrators.

Regehr, C., LeBlanc, V., Shlonsky, A., & Bogo, M. (2010). The influence of clinicians’ previous trauma exposure on their assessment of child abuse risk. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 198(9), 614 – 619.

Child protection professionals face extremely difficult decisions. Child welfare services in various parts of North America have implemented standardized risk assessment models to assist child protection professionals in accurately identifying children at risk of harm. The authors argue that worker attributes, attitudes, and experiences may influence the manner in which the worker utilizes standardized risk assessment instruments. This study used standardized patients to enact a clinical situation, in order to investigate the degree to which previous experience and emotional state influence the professional judgement of child welfare workers. Ninety-six child welfare workers, ranging in age from 22 to 63 years, participated in this study. These workers were employed at 12 different child welfare offices located in a large urban centre, smaller cities, and rural communities. Participants completed a series of questionnaires relating to previous history of traumatic exposure in the workplace and current emotional state. After the workers participated in the clinical scenario with the standardized patients, they were asked to complete various risk assessment measures based on the clinical scenario including the Ontario Risk Assessment Measure (ORAM), the Ontario Safety Assessment (OSA), and the Ontario Family Risk Assessment (OFRA). Worker level of education and age were not associated with scoring on the risk assessment measures. The authors report that increased traumatic exposure, increased stress, and increased levels of post-traumatic symptoms are associated with a decreased likelihood that the worker will determine that a child is at risk. Limitations of this study include the use of clinical situations that may not accurately reflect real-life encounters. The authors also did not outline the sampling strategy utilized in this study, implying that it was a volunteer sample. The authors conclude that workers should seek consultation when making decisions about risk.


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Jules Lajoie
McGill University, CRCF
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