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November 1995

Physical Abuse Among High School Students: Prevalence and Correlation With Other Health Behaviors

Author Affiliations

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Md (Dr Nelson), and the Oregon Health Division, Portland (Dr Higginson and Ms Grant-Worley).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(11):1254-1258. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170240072011

Objective:  To better understand the epidemiology of physical abuse among adolescents.

Design:  School-based survey of students in grades 9 through 12.

Setting:  Twenty-five schools throughout Oregon in 1993.

Main Outcome Measures:  Prevalence of ever being physically abused, prevalence of most recent occurrence of physical abuse, and correlation of physical abuse with high-risk health behaviors.

Results:  Of the 1957 respondents, 31.5% reported having ever been physically abused, with female subjects (34.6%) more likely than male subjects (28.0%) to have ever been abused. Overall, 3.7% of students had been physically abused in the past week, 7.8% in the past month, and 16.3% in the past year. Based on multivariate models, students physically abused in the past year were more likely than students who had never been physically abused to engage in a variety of high-risk behaviors; these included weapon carrying (odds ratio, 1.9), suicidal ideation (odds ratio, 2.1), cigarette smoking (odds ratio, 1.8), cocaine use (odds ratio, 3.2), or multiple sexual partners (odds ratio, 1.9).

Conclusions:  Physical abuse, an important problem among high school students, is correlated with many high-risk behaviors. Using consistent definitions, periodic surveys of children about physical abuse and other types of violent behavior are needed to provide better estimates of the extent of these problems.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:1254-1258)

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