Childhood adversities (CAs) comprise a group of negative experiences individuals may suffer in their lifetimes. The goal of the present study was to investigate the cluster discrimination of CAs through psychometric determination of the common attributes of such experiences for men and women.
Parental mental illness, substance misuse, criminality, death, divorce, other parental loss, family violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, physical illness, and economic adversity were assessed in a general-population sample (n=5,037). Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis determined gender-related dimensions of CA. The contribution of each individual adversity was explored through Rasch analysis.
Adversities were reported by 53.6% of the sample. A three-factor model of CA dimensions fit the data better for men, and a two-factor model for women. For both genders, the dimension of family maladjustment - encompassing physical abuse, neglect, parental mental disorders, and family violence - was the core cluster of CAs. Women endorsed more CAs than men. Rasch analysis found that sexual abuse, physical illness, parental criminal behavior, parental divorce, and economic adversity were difficult to report in face-to-face interviews.
CAs embrace sensitive personal information, clustering of which differed by gender. Acknowledging CAs may have an impact on medical and psychiatric outcomes in adulthood.
Keywords: Childhood adversities; social environment; gender differences; factor analysis; dimensionality; psychopathology