n African Journal of Psychiatry - Differences in the association between childhood trauma and BMI in black and white South African women : original article

Volume 16, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1994-8220



Childhood trauma has previously been associated with adult obesity. The aim of this study was to determine if ethnicity altered the relationship between childhood trauma and obesity in South African women.

Forty-four normal-weight (BMI<25kg/m2) and obese (BMI>30kg/m2), black and white premenopausal women completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), which retrospectively assessed emotional and physical neglect, and emotional, physical and sexual abuse in childhood.
Body composition did not differ by ethnicity in the normal-weight and obese groups. However, independent of BMI group, there were significant differences in socioeconomic status (SES) between black and white women (P<0.01). Total CTQ score, as well as the sub-scales, physical and emotional neglect, and physical and sexual abuse were higher in black than white women (all P<0.05), but these scores did not differ between BMI groups. Apart from the sexual abuse score, the differences in physical and emotional neglect and physical abuse-scores were no longer significant after adjusting for ethnic differences in age and SES. For sexual abuse, there was a significant interaction between ethnicity and BMI group (P=0.04), with scores in normal weight women being higher in black than white women, but scores in obese women not differing by ethnicity.
Ethnicity alters the association between childhood sexual abuse and BMI status. Larger studies are required to verify this finding, including measures of body image and body size satisfaction that may explain these findings.

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