Kids and Young Adults with Dyslexia More Likely to be Physically Abused

Adults who have dyslexia are much more likely to report they were physically abused before they turned 18 than their peers without dyslexia, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

According to the study, thirty-five per cent of adults with dyslexia report they were physically abused before they turned 18; seven per cent of those without dyslexia reported that they had experienced childhood physical abuse.

The researchers reviewed data on 13,054 adults 18 and over in the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey. Even after accounting for age, race, sex and other early adversities such as parental addictions, childhood physical abuse was still associated with a six-fold increase in the odds of dyslexia” says co-author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor and Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair at University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

“It’s possible that for some children, the presence of dyslexia and related learning problems may place them at relatively higher risk for physical abuse, perhaps due to adult frustrations with chronic learning failure” said study co-author, Stephen Hooper, professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, and Associate Dean and Chair of Allied Health Sciences at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “Alternatively, given the known association between brain dysfunction and maltreatment, it could be that the experience of physical abuse may also contribute to and/or exacerbate…learning problems…”

“Although we do not know if the abuse-dyslexia association is causative, with one-third of adults with dyslexia reporting childhood abuse, it is important that primary health care providers and school-based practitioners working with children with dyslexia screen them for physical abuse,” said Fuller-Thomson.

The study was published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

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