Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect on adult economic well-being

Janet Currie, Cathy Spatz Widom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

489 Scopus citations


Child abuse and neglect represent major threats to child health and well-being; however, little is known about consequences for adult economic outcomes. Using a prospective cohort design, court substantiated cases of childhood physical and sexual abuse and neglect during 1967-1971 were matched with nonabused and nonneglected children and followed into adulthood (mean age 41). Outcome measures of economic status and productivity were assessed in 2003-2004 (N = 807). Results indicate that adults with documented histories of childhood abuse and/or neglect have lower levels of education, employment, earnings, and fewer assets as adults, compared to matched control children. There is a 14% gap between individuals with histories of abuse/neglect and controls in the probability of employment in middle age, controlling for background characteristics. Maltreatment appears to affect men and women differently, with larger effects for women than men. These new findings demonstrate that abused and neglected children experience large and enduring economic consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
JournalChild maltreatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


  • Abuse
  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Economic consequences
  • Neglect
  • Prospective cohort design


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