Linking childhood emotional abuse and depressive symptoms: The role of emotion dysregulation and interpersonal problems

Carolien Christ*, Marleen M. De Waal, Jack J.M. Dekker, Iris van Kuijk, Digna J.F. Van Schaik, Martijn J. Kikkert, Anna E. Goudriaan, Aartjan T.F. Beekman, Terri L. Messman-Moore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Childhood abuse is a major public health problem that has been linked to depression in adulthood. Although different types of childhood abuse often co-occur, few studies have examined their unique impact on negative mental health outcomes. Most studies have focused solely on the consequences of childhood physical or sexual abuse; however, it has been suggested that childhood emotional abuse is more strongly related to depression. It remains unclear which underlying psychological processes mediate the effect of childhood emotional abuse on depressive symptoms. In a cross-sectional study in 276 female college students, multiple linear regression analyses were used to determine whether childhood emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse were independently associated with depressive symptoms, emotion dysregulation, and interpersonal problems. Subsequently, OLS regression analyses were used to determine whether emotion dysregulation and interpersonal problems mediate the relationship between childhood emotional abuse and depressive symptoms. Of all types of abuse, only emotional abuse was independently associated with depressive symptoms, emotion dysregulation, and interpersonal problems. The effect of childhood emotional abuse on depressive symptoms was mediated by emotion dysregulation and the following domains of interpersonal problems: cold/distant and domineering/controlling. The results of the current study indicate that detection and prevention of childhood emotional abuse deserves attention from Child Protective Services. Finally, interventions that target emotion regulation skills and interpersonal skills may be beneficial in prevention of depression.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0211882
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

Cite this

Christ, C., De Waal, M. M., Dekker, J. J. M., van Kuijk, I., Van Schaik, D. J. F., Kikkert, M. J., ... Messman-Moore, T. L. (2019). Linking childhood emotional abuse and depressive symptoms: The role of emotion dysregulation and interpersonal problems. PLoS ONE, 14(2), [e0211882]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211882