Background: The relationship of health risk behavior and disease in adulthood to the breadth of
exposure to childhood emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, and household dysfunction
during childhood has not previously been described.
Methods: A questionnaire about adverse childhood experiences was mailed to 13,494 adults who had
completed a standardized medical evaluation at a large HMO; 9,508 (70.5%) responded.
Seven categories of adverse childhood experiences were studied: psychological, physical, or
sexual abuse; violence against mother; or living with household members who were
substance abusers, mentally ill or suicidal, or ever imprisoned. The number of categories
of these adverse childhood experiences was then compared to measures of adult risk
behavior, health status, and disease. Logistic regression was used to adjust for effects of
demographic factors on the association between the cumulative number of categories of
childhood exposures (range: 0–7) and risk factors for the leading causes of death in adult life
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