Associations Between Childhood Abuse and COVID-19 Hyperarousal in Adulthood: The Role of Social Environment
Counts, Cory J.
Ginty, Annie T.
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Background: Childhood abuse increases risk for high levels of distress in response to future stressors. Interpersonal social support is protective for health, particularly during stress, and may be particularly beneficial for individuals who experienced childhood abuse. Objective: Investigate whether childhood abuse predicts levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and test whether the perceived availability of social companionship preceding the pandemic moderates this relationship. Methods: During Phase 1, adults (N = 120; Age M[SD] = 19.4 [0.94]) completed a retrospective measure of childhood adversity along with a measure of perceived availability of opportunities for social engagement immediately preceding the pandemic. Two weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic declaration, participants completed the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) with respect to the pandemic. Hierarchical linear regression analyses examined the interaction between childhood abuse and the perceived availability of social companionship preceding the pandemic as a predictor of PTSD symptoms. Results: Adjusting for covariates, the interaction between childhood abuse and perceived availability of others to engage with before the onset of the pandemic was a significant predictor of IES-hyperarousal (β = −0.19, t = −2.06, p = 0.04, ΔR2 = 0.032, CI: [−0.31 to −0.01]). Conclusion: Levels of perceived opportunities for social companionship before the pandemic associates with levels of hyperarousal related to the pandemic, particularly for individuals who experienced high levels of childhood abuse. More research is needed to understand how to mitigate the higher levels of distress related to the pandemic for these individuals in order to reduce risk for future psychiatric disorders.
John-Henderson, N. A., Counts, C. J., & Ginty, A. T. (2021). Associations Between Childhood Abuse and COVID-19 Hyperarousal in Adulthood: The Role of Social Environment. Frontiers in Psychology, 446.