Journal Article

Adult-Onset Vulvodynia in Relation to Childhood Violence Victimization

Bernard L. Harlow and Elizabeth Gunther Stewart

in American Journal of Epidemiology

Published on behalf of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Volume 161, issue 9, pages 871-880
Published in print May 2005 | ISSN: 0002-9262
Published online May 2005 | e-ISSN: 1476-6256 | DOI:
Adult-Onset Vulvodynia in Relation to Childhood Violence Victimization

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Researchers have failed to find a consistent association between childhood victimization and vulvodynia, a debilitating, unexplained vulvar pain condition. However, selection bias associated with case ascertainment, and differential reporting bias between clinic-based cases and controls, may explain in part the inconsistent findings. In 2000–2003, the authors identified 125 women experiencing symptoms of vulvar pain consistent with vulvodynia and 125 age- and community-matched controls from the Boston, Massachusetts-area general population. Telephone-administered questionnaires were used to obtain medical, psychiatric, and reproductive histories. Self-administered surveys assessed childhood exposure (age <12 years) to physical and sexual abuse and to poor family support. After author adjustment for socioeconomic position, women with vulvar pain versus controls were 2.6 times more likely to report never/rarely receiving childhood family support, such as comfort, encouragement, and love (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.3, 5.1). Adult-onset vulvodynia was strongly associated with abuse as a child more than a few times physically (odds ratio (OR) = 4.1, 95% CI: 1.7, 10.0) or sexually (OR = 6.5, 95% CI: 1.2, 35.1). When abused women were compared with those with no history of abuse, the association was largely confined to those harmed by a primary family member (OR = 3.6, 95% CI: 1.6, 8.0 for physical abuse; OR = 4.4, 95% CI: 0.9, 22.9 for sexual abuse). Additional population-based studies of clinically confirmed cases of vulvodynia are needed to replicate this association.

Keywords: case-control studies; child abuse; dyspareunia; genitalia, female; pain; vulva; vulvar diseases; women

Journal Article.  5542 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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