Background: Since the COVID-19 outbreak at the end of 2019, it has evolved into a global pandemic with tremendous mental health impact besides the threats to people's physical health. Objective: The aims were to examine whether exposure to COVID-19 predicts elevated levels of anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms and whether pre-pandemic maltreatment experiences exacerbate this impact on mental health in adolescents. Participants and setting: The survey was conducted online from February 8 st to February 27th, 2020, and the questionnaires were distributed and retrieved through a web-based platform. This study includes a total of 6196 subjects, aged range from 11 to 18 years old. Methods: Several multivariable linear regressions were used to analyse the data. Results: The largest variance in PTSS and anxiety problems was explained by ACEs, with more pre-pandemic maltreatment experiences predicting more PTSS (effect size beta = 0.16∼0.27), and more anxiety (effect size beta = 0.32∼0.47). Experienced or subjective fear of exposure to COVID-19 predicted statistically significant variance in PTSS and anxiety, and standardized betas ranged from 0.04 to 0.09. Participants who had adverse childhood experiences and had experienced exposure to COVID-19 showed elevated PTSS. Conclusions: After pre-pandemic maltreatment experiences the impact of exposure to COVID-19 on mental health may be stronger. Scars from the past seem to be vulnerabilities during societal upheaval. We therefore suggest that when exposed to COVID-19 rural adolescents should get prioritized professional family support and mental health counseling in particular when they have experienced family abuse and neglect in childhood, even though such support is more difficult to organize in rural areas.

Additional Metadata
Keywords ACEs, Adolescents, Anxiety, Covid-19, Maltreatment, PTSS
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104667, hdl.handle.net/1765/129865
Journal Child Abuse and Neglect
Citation
Guo, J. (Jing), Fu, M. (Mingqi), Liu, D. (Danxia), Zhang, B. (Bo), Wang, X.H, & van IJzendoorn, M.H. (2020). Is the psychological impact of exposure to COVID-19 stronger in adolescents with pre-pandemic maltreatment experiences? A survey of rural Chinese adolescents. Child Abuse and Neglect. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104667