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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAlbany: Childhood Adversity Associated with Greater Risk and Severity of Depression

In many populations, more than half of adults report one or more adverse childhood event like parental mental health problems or financial hardship. This adversity has been associated with depression in later life, although the timing of the adversity in relation to depression has been unclear. To fill this gap, Drs. Melissa Tracy, Tomoko Udo, and Allison Appleton identified trajectories of adversity from birth through late childhood and examined the long-term effects on depression outcomes.

The researchers utilized data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), an ongoing population-based prospective cohort study that enrolled pregnant women in southwestern England whose delivery dates were between April 1, 1991 and December 31, 1992. The children completed a computerized assessment at age 18 that was used to determine the symptoms and severity of their depression and their parents filled out questionnaires on adverse events and household characteristics throughout the study period, which were used to create five trajectory groups that reflected levels and changes in adversity from birth through age 11.

The results showed that the children in groups with higher levels of adversity had a higher risk of depression — and severity of depression — regardless of when the adversity took place.

This classification of children according to the accumulation, timing, and persistence of adversity shows that regular, periodic screening for adversity throughout childhood could help to identify children at the greatest risk for depression, potentially allowing for the development of intervention programs to reduce the negative consequences of depression.