Child Abuse and Neglect
Childhood violence exposure (CVE) in formative developmental years may have potent effects on severity and complexity of post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in adulthood, yet little research has examined the role of age of first exposure in the context of polyvictimization or gone beyond an examination of direct effects. The current study examines the specific associations between age of first exposure, total CVE, and posttraumatic stress symptoms in adulthood. Further, the conditional and indirect effects of age of first exposure on posttraumatic stress symptoms were examined. We hypothesized that age of first exposure to violence would be associated with higher total violence exposure across childhood, thereby predicting current posttraumatic stress symptom severity (i.e., indirect effect). We also postulated that age of first exposure would affect the relationship between total violence exposure and posttraumatic stress symptoms such that earlier exposure would exacerbate the effects of violence exposure (i.e., conditional effect). Participants included 269 violence-exposed adults recruited through MTurk; the mean age of first CVE was 6 years (SD = 3.29). Conditional process models indicated that age of first exposure was significantly associated with higher total childhood violence exposure, which in turn, was significantly associated with current posttraumatic stress symptoms in all domains. Further, a conditional effect of age of first exposure was present such that the relationship between total exposure to violence and symptoms of hyperarousal was stronger for those first exposed at earlier ages. Findings provide support suggesting the particular potency of early trauma on regulatory response systems. (Author abstract)
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