THURSDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Almost 60 percent of American adults say they had difficult childhoods featuring abusive or troubled family members or parents who were absent due to separation or divorce, federal health officials report.
In fact, nearly 9 percent said that while growing up they underwent five or more "adverse childhood experiences" ranging from verbal, physical or sexual abuse to family dysfunction such as domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or the absence of a parent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"Adverse childhood experiences are common," said study coauthor Valerie J. Edwards, team lead for the Adverse Childhood Experiences Team at CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "We need to do a lot more to protect children and help families," she said.
About a quarter of the more than 26,000 adults surveyed reported experiencing verbal abuse as children, nearly 15 percent had been physical abused, and more than 12 percent -- more than one in ten -- had been sexually abused as a child.
Since the data are self-reported, Edwards believes that the real extent of child abuse may be still greater. "There is a tendency to under-report rather than over-report," she said.
The findings are published in the Dec. 17 issue of the CDC's journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
For the report, researchers used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which surveyed 26,229 adults in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington. Edwards is cautious about extrapolating these results, but based on other data they probably are about the same in other states, she said.
While there were few racial or ethnic differences in reports of abuse, the report confirmed that women were more likely than men to have been sexually abus
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