Childhood Trauma Study
Study Code:CT
Sample:Twins, siblings and parents
Start Date:Jan.2003
Status:Data Collection Closed
Contact:Anjali Henders
More Info:QIMR only


Rationale for the Project

Elevated rates of childhood trauma, particularly childhood sexual abuse (CSA) or physical abuse (PA) have been reported in studies assessing adults and adolescents presenting for the treatment of alcoholism or drug dependence. Trauma survivors in treatment have increased rates of alcohol and drug dependence and other negative outcomes. However, despite highly replicable relationships between trauma and adverse outcomes, establishing the causal role of trauma has proved difficult. General population studies have attempted to control for possible confounding by family background factors (eg., parental alcoholism), that are associated with risks for both the trauma and its sequelae, by identifying a number of these factors and then entering them into regression models. Recent investigation in twins, which have used non-abused co-twins to control for family background, have confirmed associations with negative outcomes and suggested that prior statistical controls were overly conservative. The current proposal seeks to extend these recent methodological advances by better assessing childhood abuse history in a sub-set of previously interviewed adult twin pairs from the "Twin89" cohort. This sub-set will consist of a childhood abuse group [N=500 pairs of 'cases'] in which at least one twin reported CSA and/or PA in the Twin89 Interview and a matched control group [N-500 pairs] in which neither twin reported abuse and by obtaining comprehensive assessments of parents and other siblings. We anticipate that this project will demonstrate (1) important direct effects of CSA/PA and indirect effects occurring via family background risk factors that are associated with risk of abuse on the risk of alcohol dependence and other psychopathology; and (2) that both direct and indirect effects are more pronounced in, but not limited to, genetically vulnerable individuals.

Scientific Aims of the Project

The aims can be summarised as follows:

(A) To examine parental predictors of offspring CSA and PA and to elucidate the routes by which these associations are mediated.

(B) To use data from non-abused co-twins and other siblings to control for family background risk factors to permit: (1) improved estimation of the risks for negative outcomes associated with CSA,PA and (2) examination of routes by which these risks are mediated and moderated.

(C) To more comprehensively determine the contributions of CSA and PA, personality disorders, major depression, and anxiety disorders, to the inheritance of alcohol dependence risk and to identify critical intervening variables.