The authors reported that the current study "is the first to systematically investigate whether multiple child maltreatment is associated with HIV risk behaviors and adverse mental health outcomes among Asian-American women." Using computer-assisted survey interviews, they conducted a cross-sectional study of 400 unmarried Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese women, ages 18-35, identified as children of immigrants.
Having experienced maltreatment as a child was reported by about seven in 10 women, while 6.8 percent reported any type of sexual abuse. Having sex at age 16 or younger was reported by 15 percent of respondents. Almost 60 percent had ever engaged with potentially risky sexual partners.
"Contrary to the findings from previous studies of white and black women, sexual abuse plus other maltreatment was not associated with HIV risk behaviors among Asian-American women," the team wrote. It was, however, found to be associated with "a marked increase in depression, lifetime suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts." Increased odds of HIV risk behaviors, including ever having had anal sex and ever having potentially risky sex partners, were associated with a higher education level.
"There was no evidence indicating that multiple child maltreatment was linked with HIV risk behaviors, but it exhibited a robust association with poor mental health outcomes," the authors concluded. "These empirical patterns of internalizing trauma, suffering alone, and staying silent are in accord with Asian-cultural norms of saving face and maintaining family harmony. The prevention of multiple child maltreatment may reduce high levels of depression and suicidal behaviors in this population. It is urgent to identify victims of multiple child maltreatment and provide culturally appropriate interventions."
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