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The relationship between child protection contact and mental health outcomes among Canadian adults with a child abuse history

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Child Abuse and Neglect



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Despite being a primary response to child abuse, it is currently unknown whether contact with child protection services (CPS) does more good than harm. The aim of the current study was to examine whether contact with CPS is associated with improved mental health outcomes among adult respondents who reported experiencing child abuse, after adjusting for sociodemographic factors and abuse severity. The data were drawn from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health (CCHS-2012), which used a multistage stratified cluster design (household-level response rate = 79.8%). Included in this study were individuals aged 18 years and older living in the 10 Canadian provinces (N = 23,395). Child abuse included physical abuse, sexual abuse, and exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV). Mental health outcomes included lifetime mental disorders, lifetime and past year suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts, and current psychological well-being and functioning and distress. All models were adjusted for sociodemographic factors and severity of child abuse. For the majority of outcomes, there were no statistically significant differences between adults with a child abuse history who had CPS contact compared to those without CPS contact. However, those with CPS contact were more likely to report lifetime suicide attempts. These findings suggest that CPS contact is not associated with improved mental health outcomes. Implications are discussed.

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