Political consequences of childhood maltreatment


Usry, Kaye (2018). Political consequences of childhood maltreatment. 2018 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that in 2015 alone, nearly seven hundred thousand children were abused or severely neglected in the United States. This form of early trauma, especially when perpetrated by a parent or guardian, has severe consequences for a child's development, and has been linked to numerous negative behavioral outcomes later in life. Despite this, the relevance of childhood maltreatment for an individual's worldview and political engagement has not previously been considered. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), I explore the effects of childhood maltreatment reported in Wave III, on political trust, civic engagement, and ideological attachment in Waves III and IV. I use both a multivariate regression approach, and propensity score matching, to examine the effects of childhood maltreatment. I find that when adolescents report being neglected by their parents or guardians, there are lasting, negative consequences for their willingness to trust in government, vote in elections, and be engaged members of their communities (Wave III). And, these effects appear to last into early adulthood (Wave IV). Physical and sexual abuse appear to have a more complicated relationship with political attitudes and behaviors. When adolescents report being physically abused by their parents or guardians, they have reduced political trust, but may actually be more civically and politically engaged in early adulthood. When children have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of a parent or guardian, at least in adolescence, there do not appear to be any consequences for their political attitudes or behavior. However, their awareness of this experience, and the potential consequences for their political attitudes and behaviors, may not develop until they reach adulthood.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2018 Add Health Users Conference


Usry, Kaye

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID