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Networks of Adversity in Childhood and Adolescence and their Relationship to Adult Mental Health

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-38
Number of pages38
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Accepted/In press5 Sep 2022

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Abstract

Adverse events before the age of eighteen are common and include diverse experiences ranging from sexual abuse to parental divorce. These stressful events have been linked to physical and mental health issues. Previous research has focused mainly on childhood adversity, such as experiences in the family environment. Little consideration has been given to adversities that may be particularly harmful in adolescence. To understand adolescents' adverse experiences, this project used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC, total N = 14,901, N ≈ 1,200-10,000 per measure). We modelled interrelations of adversities in childhood (1-11 years) and adolescence (11-23 years) and examined adversity clusters using network analysis. We found two similar clusters in the childhood and adolescence networks: (1) direct abuse and (2) adverse family factors. We identified a third cluster of (3) educational and social adversities for adolescence. For both age groups, emotional abuse in the family environment was closely linked to mental health in early adulthood and most adversities were linked with depression in early adulthood. In adolescence, housing and academic issues and abuse by a romantic partner were particularly central to the network of adversities. Thus, we found commonalities and differences in the relevance of adverse experiences at different developmental stages. These findings highlight the need to develop age-dependent frameworks for adversity research and policymaking.

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