Child abuse takes a huge toll on a child's life. New research suggests that child abuse can cause early or delayed onset of menstrual periods in girls.

Researchers found that girls who were physically abused as a child were at a 50 percent increased risk of  having late menarche ( onset of menstrual periods after 15 years) while the risk for an early menarche ( onset of periods prior to age 11 years) rose by almost 49 percent in girls who were sexually abused.

The study was based on records of more than 68,000 women.

"In our study child abuse was associated with both accelerated and delayed age at menarche and importantly, these associations vary by type of abuse, which suggest that child abuse does not have a homogenous effect on health outcomes. There is a need for future research to explore characteristics of child abuse that may influence health outcomes including type, timing and severity of abuse, as well as the social context in which the abuse occurs," said Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at BUSM and lead author of the study.

Early menarche has been associated with heart diseases, depression. It can also affect lung function and result in adult asthma. Research has shown that early age menarche tend to cause behavioral problems that stay for long time.

Child abuse can trigger a variety of health complications in both boys and girls. Child abuse has been linked with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.  

"We need to work toward better understanding how child abuse influences health and translate these research findings into clinical practice and public health strategies to improve the well-being of survivors of child abuse," added Boynton-Jarrett.

The study is published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 740,000 children and youth are treated in hospital emergency departments as a result of violence each year which translates to more than 84 cases every hour.

Child maltreatment report is registered every 6 minutes in the U.S. State and local agencies receive as many as 3 million reports of child maltreatment each year, the agency says.