Associations between childhood trauma and childhood psychiatric disorders in Brazil: a population-based, prospective birth cohort study

Andreas Bauer, Graeme Fairchild, Gemma Hammerton, Joseph Murray, Ina S. Santos, Luciana Tovo Rodrigues, Tiago N. Munhoz, Aluísio J.D. Barros, Alicia Matijasevich, Sarah Halligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Childhood trauma is a proposed transdiagnostic risk factor for psychopathology, but epidemiological evidence from low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) is scarce. We investigated associations between trauma and child psychiatric disorders in a birth cohort in Brazil. 

Methods: The 2004 Pelotas Birth Cohort is an ongoing, population-based, prospective birth cohort, including all hospital births occurring between Jan 1 and Dec 31, 2004, in the city of Pelotas, Brazil. When the children were aged 6 and 11 years, trained psychologists administered the Development and Well-Being Assessment clinical interview to caregivers to assess current child psychiatric disorders (anxiety disorders, mood disorders, ADHD and hyperactivity disorders, and conduct and oppositional disorders), and lifetime trauma exposure (ie, experiencing or witnessing life-threatening events) including interpersonal and non-interpersonal events. Analyses used multiple imputation and logistic regression models. 

Outcomes: Of 4263 live births, 4231 children were included in the study sample, and 4229 (2195 [51·9%] boys and 2034 [48·1%] girls; 2581 [61·7%] with White mothers and 1600 [38·3%] with Black or mixed race mothers) were included in the imputed analyses. 1154 (34·3%) of 3367 children with complete data at age 11 years had been exposed to trauma by that age. After adjusting for confounders, at age 6 years, trauma was associated with increased odds of anxiety disorders (adjusted odds ratio 1·79 [95% CI 1·33–2·42]) and any psychiatric disorder (1·59 [1·22–2·06]), and at age 11 years, with any psychiatric disorder (1·45 [1·17–1·79]) and all four specific diagnostic classes of anxiety disorders (1·47 [1·04–2·09]), mood disorders (1·66 [1·08–2·55]), ADHD and hyperactivity disorders (1·47 [1·01–2·13]), and conduct and oppositional disorders (1·76 [1·19–2·61]). Interpersonal trauma and non-interpersonal trauma were each associated with increased odds of multiple psychiatric disorders, even when adjusting for their co-occurrence. 

Interpretation: A considerable mental health burden associated with childhood trauma is already evident by middle childhood in this sample from Brazil. Evidence-based efforts to reduce the incidence of childhood trauma in Brazil and address its consequences are urgently needed. 

Funding: Children's Pastorate, WHO, National Support Program for Centres of Excellence, Brazilian National Research Council, Brazilian Ministry of Health, São Paulo Research Foundation, University of Bath, Wellcome Trust. Translation: For the Portuguese translation of the abstract see Supplementary Materials section.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-977
Number of pages9
JournalThe Lancet Psychiatry
Issue number12
Early online date31 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


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