DOI: 10.2174/0115672050281539231222071355 ISSN: 1567-2050

Childhood Maltreatment and Dementia Risk Factors in Midlife: A Prospective Investigation

Cathy Spatz Widom, Hang (Heather) Do, Kristin S. Lynch, Jennifer J. Manly
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Neurology


Previous studies have linked childhood adversities to dementia risk, yet most studies are cross-sectional in design and utilize retrospective self-reports to assess childhood experiences. These design characteristics make it difficult to establish temporal order and draw firm conclusions.


Using a longitudinal design, we sought to determine whether childhood maltreatment predicts dementia risk factors in middle adulthood.


Data have been obtained from a prospective cohort design study of children with documented cases of childhood maltreatment (ages 0-11 years at case identification) and demographically matched controls who were followed up and interviewed in middle adulthood. Outcomes were assessed through a medical examination and interview, and 807 of the cases that included blood collection at mean age 41 and dementia risk were investigated using 11 potentially modifiable risk factors.


Compared to controls, individuals with histories of childhood maltreatment had a higher risk of low educational attainment, low social contact, smoking, and clinical depression, and a higher total number of dementia risk factors. In general, childhood maltreatment predicted a higher risk of dementia for females, males, and Black and White participants. Black maltreated participants had a greater risk for traumatic brain injury compared to Black controls. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, each predicted a higher number of dementia risk factors in mid-life.


These findings provide evidence that childhood maltreatment increases the risk for dementia in mid-life and has a demonstrable impact lasting over 30 years. Reducing the prevalence of mid-life dementia risk factors could reduce the risk of later-life dementia.

More from our Archive