Impact of dimensions of early adversity on adult health and functioning: A 2-decade, longitudinal study.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Recent neurodevelopmental and evolutionary theories offer strong theoretical rationales and some empirical evidence to support the importance of specific dimensions of early adversity. However, studies have often been limited by omission of other adversity dimensions, singular outcomes, and short follow up durations. 1,420 participants in the community, Great Smoky Mountains Study, were assessed up to eight times between age 9 and 16 for four dimensions of early adversity: Threat, Material Deprivation, Unpredictability, and Loss (as well as a Cumulative Adversity measure). Participants were followed up to four times in adulthood (ages 19, 21, 25, and 30) to measure psychiatric disorders, substance disorder, and "real-world" functioning. Every childhood adversity dimension was associated with multiple adult psychiatric, substance, or functional outcomes when tested simultaneously in a multivariable analysis that accounted for other childhood adversities. There was evidence of differential impact of dimensions of adversity exposure on proximal outcomes (e.g., material deprivation and IQ) and even on distal outcomes (e.g., threat and emotional functioning). There were similar levels of prediction between the best set of individual adversity scales and a single cumulative adversity measure when considering distal outcomes. All dimensions of childhood adversity have lasting, pleiotropic effects, on adult health and functioning, but these dimensions may act via distinct proximal pathways.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • McGinnis, EW; Sheridan, M; Copeland, WE

Published Date

  • May 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 34 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 527 - 538

PubMed ID

  • 35074038

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9309184

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1469-2198

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/S095457942100167X


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States