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Home > Relationship between interpersonal trauma exposure and addictive behaviors: a systematic review.

Konkolÿ Thege, Barna and Horwood, Lewis and Slater, Linda and Tan, Maria C and Hodgins, David C and Wild, T Cameron (2017) Relationship between interpersonal trauma exposure and addictive behaviors: a systematic review. BMC Psychiatry, 17, (1), p. 164.

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BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to systematically summarize knowledge on the association between exposure to interpersonal trauma and addictive behaviors. Extant reviews on this association focused on a restricted range of substance-related addictions, and/or used a narrative instead of a systematic approach.

METHODS: Systematic searches of 8 databases yielded 29,841 studies, of which 3054 studies were included and subsequently classified in relation to study design (scoping review). A subset of observational studies (N = 181) prospectively investigating the relationship between exposure to interpersonal traumata and subsequent behavioral or substance-related addiction problems were characterized. Heterogeneity in study methodologies and types of addictive behaviors and traumatic experiences assessed precluded meta-analysis. Instead, the proportions of associations tested in this literature that revealed positive, negative, or null relationships between trauma exposure and subsequent addictive behaviors were recorded, along with other methodological features.

RESULTS: Of 3054 included studies, 70.7% (n = 2160) used a cross-sectional design. In the 181 prospective observational studies (407,041 participants, 98.8% recruited from developed countries), 35.1% of the tested associations between trauma exposure and later addictive behaviors was positive, 1.3% was negative, and 63.6% was non-significant. These results were primarily obtained among non-treatment seeking samples (80.7% of studies; n = 146), using single and multi-item measures of addictive behaviors of unknown psychometric quality (46.4% of studies). Positive associations were more frequently observed in studies examining childhood versus adult traumatization (39.7% vs. 29.7%).

CONCLUSIONS: Longitudinal research in this area emphasizes alcohol abuse, and almost no research has examined behavioral addictions. Results provide some support for a positive association between exposure to interpersonal trauma and subsequent addictive behaviors but this relationship was not consistently reported. Longitudinal studies typically assessed trauma exposure retrospectively, often after addictive behavior onset, thus precluding robust inferences about whether traumatization affects initial onset of addictive behaviors.

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