Author's School

Brown School

Author's Department

Public Health


English (en)

Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Melissa Jonson-Reid

Committee Members

Derek Brown, Francis Drake, Patrick Fowler, Fred Ssewamala


Both child abuse and neglect (hereafter maltreatment) and poverty are serious social and public health problems that are related to numerous negative and costly outcomes as well as being related to other so-called adverse childhood experiences (ACES). A significant, yet recent, body of work suggests a strong, perhaps causal, relationship between poverty and maltreatment. Much remains unknown about how they are associated and whether or not a true causal relationship exists while controlling for other potential risks in the ecology. This dissertation conducted a secondary analysis of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to help address this gap. First, the prospective relationship between poverty over time and a proxy measure for maltreatment was explored. Next retrospective recall of maltreatment and others ACES in adulthood were explored to see how they were associated with childhood history and if child maltreatment had a distinct set of predictors from other ACES.Findings suggest that both family-level and neighborhood-level poverty are associated with caregiver reports of harsh and neglectful parenting while controlling for demographics, family conflict, and other neighborhood factors. Later adult self-report of ACES was common (nearly 80% reported at least one). Certain measures of poverty increased the likelihood of reporting of ACEs, while there was an indication that receipt of poverty services at birth decreased that likelihood. However, further exploration of adult recall of ACES suggested that the co-occurrence of various ACES was difficult to disentangle. In other words, there were few differences by type of ACE, though a latent class analysis suggested it was possible to discriminate between those who reported more as compared to fewer ACES but not between types. While there are a number of limitations to the measures and data, findings suggest that addressing income needs at an early age may have preventive impacts in both caregiver-reported behaviors that suggest maltreatment as well as later retrospective recall of maltreatment and other ACEs. The fact that it was difficult to differentiate between types of ACEs suggests that anti-poverty efforts may also impact the likelihood of other ACEs though more research is required to establish the range of benefits.

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