Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) have a significant effect on psychological and physical child development and represent a risk factor for interpersonal difficulties.
This study aims to investigate the association between ACE, in particular physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect, and partnership quality during adulthood in women.
Participants and setting
This study is a secondary analysis of a retrospective multi-center study evaluating risk factors and quality of life in women with and without endometriosis, a chronic, disabling gynecological disease. The investigation includes 533 consenting adult women (159 with ACE and 374 women without) recruited from various hospitals in Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
To evaluate the association between ACE and partnership, a questionnaire including the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and a validated partnership questionnaire were used.
Altogether, 29.8 % (N = 159) women experienced maltreatment in childhood, 9.7 % (N = 52) of them more than one type. Women who went through ACE showed a lower level of happiness (P = 0.013) and of quality of partnership (P = 0.001) as well as a higher number of conflict areas (P < 0.001). Emotional (P = 0.03; 95 % CI=-1.27,-0.070) and sexual abuse (P = 0.01; 95 % CI=-1.765,-0.197) had the strongest association with reduced partnership quality.
Our study showed a significant association between ACE, in particular sexual and emotional abuse, and reduced partnership quality. As the quality of partnership is a key factor in the quality of life, improvement in social support with a special focus on intimate relationships should be part of the strategy to address the consequences of ACE already during childhood/adolescence.