Do Asian-American women who were maltreated as children have a higher likelihood for HIV risk behaviors and adverse mental health outcomes?

Authors: Hyeouk Chris Hahm, Ph.D., LCSW., Eric Kolaczyk, Ph.D., M.S., Yookyong Lee, Ph.D., Jisun Jang, M.A., and Lisa Ng, B.A.

This article is a systematic investigation of child maltreatment and its association with HIV risk behaviors and adverse mental health outcomes among Asian-American women.

This article is accessible for free at PubMed Central and as a PDF.



This 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.


We conducted a cross-sectional study of unmarried Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese women (n = 400), aged 18 to 35, who are identified as children of immigrants, using Computer-Assisted Survey Interviews (CASI).


Approximately seven in ten women reported having been maltreated as a child and 6.8% reported any type of sexual abuse. Only 15% of our sample reported having sex at age 16 or before, yet almost 60% had ever engaged with 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. However,it was associated with a marked increase in depression, lifetime suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. A higher education was associated with increased odds of HIV risk behaviors including ever having anal sex and ever having potentially risky sexual partners.


There was no evidence indicating that multiple child maltreatment was linked to HIV risk behaviors, but it exhibited a robust association with poor mental health outcomes. These empirical patterns of internalizing trauma, suffering alone, and stayingsilent 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 among this population. It is urgently needed to identify victims of multiple child maltreatment and provide culturally appropriate interventions.