Consequences of Interpersonal Violence Against Child Athletes Persist into Adulthood

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Tine Vertommen, Criminologist Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Universiteitsplein 1 Antwerp, Belgium

Tine Vertommen

Tine Vertommen, Criminologist
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Universiteitsplein 1
Antwerp, Belgium

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: A recent prevalence study into interpersonal violence against child athletes in the Netherlands and Belgium showed that 6% experienced severe sexual violence, 8% experienced severe physical violence, and 9% of respondents experienced severe psychological violence in sport (Vertommen et al., 2016). While general literature has repeatedly shown that exposure to interpersonal violence during childhood is associated with mental health problems in adulthood, this relationship has not yet been demonstrated in (former) athletes. Thus, the objective of the current study is to assess the long-term consequences of these experiences on adult mental health and quality of life.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: 
The data showed that all three types of severe interpersonal violence (psychological, physical and sexual) were significantly associated with the total score and the subscales of the Brief Symptom Inventory. The effect remained statistically significant even after controlling for socio-demographics, as well as disability, sexual orientation, recent trauma and family history of psychological problems.

However, effect sizes were rather small. No distinct impact differences between the three types of interpersonal violence were found.

These insights should encourage sport administrators to implement child protection measures, as well as inform mental health professionals to screen for adverse childhood experiences also in the context of sport.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research on long-term consequences of experiencing violence in sport should include the perpetrator relationship with the perpetrator. While a hierarchical relationship with an adult commonly is seen as a risk factor for devastating effect of abuse, a recent study showed that long-term consequences of peer victimization in children has worse effects on adult mental health than being maltreated by adults (Leraya et al., 2015).

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?

Response: While many involved in sport were reluctant to acknowledge the problem in the previous century, recent prevalence studies, together with the disclosure of high profile child abuse cases in sport, have urged the most powerful international sport organisation the International Olympic Committee (IOC) put this issue on the agenda.

The IOC Consensus Statement: harassment and abuse (non-accidental violence) in sport emphasizes the need for comprehensive athlete protection and safeguarding mechanisms consisting of a wide variety of measures implemented by sport organisations at all levels.

Citation: 2017 European Congress of Psychiatry poster presentation:

This study is not published yet.

For the full poster, see:

http://www.europsy.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/youthsportabuse.pdf

For the original paper on this subject from Vertommen and colleagues, published in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect, see:
http://www.europsy.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CAN-2016-Vertommen-Prevalence-IViS-Final.pdf 

For a further published paper in the same journal on the perpetrators of this type of abuse, see:

http://www.europsy.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CAN-2017-Vertommen-Perpetrators-IViS-Sport.pdf

For the The IOC Consensus Statement: harassment and abuse (non-accidental violence) in sport

http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2016/04/26/bjsports-2016-096121

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