IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/socmed/v156y2016icp114-124.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Childhood adversity and adult health: Evaluating intervening mechanisms

Author

Listed:
  • Turner, R. Jay
  • Thomas, Courtney S.
  • Brown, Tyson H.

Abstract

Substantial evidence has accumulated supporting a causal link between childhood adversity and risk for poor health years and even decades later. One interpretation of this evidence is that this linkage arises largely or exclusively from a process of biological embedding that is not modifiable by subsequent social context or experience – implying childhood as perhaps the only point at which intervention efforts are likely to be effective. This paper considers the extent to which this long-term association arises from intervening differences in social context and/or environmental experiences – a finding that would suggest that post-childhood prevention efforts may also be effective. Based on the argument that the selected research definition of adult health status may have implications for the early adversity-adult health linkage, we use a representative community sample of black and white adults (N = 1252) to evaluate this relationship across three health indices: doctor diagnosed illnesses, self-rated health, and allostatic load. Results generally indicate that observed relationships between childhood adversity and dimensions of adult health status were totally or almost totally accounted for by variations in adult socioeconomic position (SEP) and adult stress exposure. One exception is the childhood SEP-allostatic load association, for which a statistically significant relationship remained in the context of adult stress and SEP. This lone finding supports a conclusion that the impact of childhood adversity is not always redeemable by subsequent experience. However, in general, analyses suggest the likely utility of interventions beyond childhood aimed at reducing exposure to social stress and improving social and economic standing. Whatever the effects on adult health that derive from biological embedding, they appear to be primarily indirect effects through adult social context and exposure.

Suggested Citation

  • Turner, R. Jay & Thomas, Courtney S. & Brown, Tyson H., 2016. "Childhood adversity and adult health: Evaluating intervening mechanisms," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 114-124.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:156:y:2016:i:c:p:114-124
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.02.026
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953616300818
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Seeman, Teresa E. & Crimmins, Eileen & Huang, Mei-Hua & Singer, Burton & Bucur, Alexander & Gruenewald, Tara & Berkman, Lisa F. & Reuben, David B., 2004. "Cumulative biological risk and socio-economic differences in mortality: MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(10), pages 1985-1997, May.
    2. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1993:83:7:948-954_5 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Haas, Steven & Rohlfsen, Leah, 2010. "Life course determinants of racial and ethnic disparities in functional health trajectories," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 240-250, January.
    4. Haas, Steven, 2008. "Trajectories of functional health: The 'long arm' of childhood health and socioeconomic factors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(4), pages 849-861, February.
    5. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2003:93:10:1713-1719_6 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Mark Hayward & Bridget Gorman, 2004. "The long arm of childhood: The influence of early-life social conditions on men’s mortality," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(1), pages 87-107, February.
    7. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2004.060749_0 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1990:80:4:446-452_8 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Steven Haas, 2007. "The long-term effects of poor childhood health: An assessment and application of retrospective reports," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(1), pages 113-135, February.
    10. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1996:86:10:1370-1378_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Warner, David F. & Brown, Tyson H., 2011. "Understanding how race/ethnicity and gender define age-trajectories of disability: An intersectionality approach," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(8), pages 1236-1248, April.
    12. Jenifer Hamil-Luker & Angela O’rand, 2007. "Gender differences in the link between childhood socioeconomic conditions and heart attack risk in adulthood," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(1), pages 137-158, February.
    13. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2002:92:4:624-631_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Farmer, Melissa M. & Ferraro, Kenneth F., 2005. "Are racial disparities in health conditional on socioeconomic status?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 191-204, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. repec:oup:geronb:v:73:y:2018:i:2:p:188-197. is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Yang, Tse-Chuan & Chen, I-Chien & Choi, Seung-won & Kurtulus, Aysenur, 2019. "Linking perceived discrimination during adolescence to health during mid-adulthood: Self-esteem and risk-behavior mechanisms," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 232(C), pages 434-443.
    3. repec:oup:geronb:v:73:y:2018:i:2:p:208-218. is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Davillas, A.; Jones, A.M.; Benzeval, M.;, 2017. "The income-health gradient: Evidence from self-reported health and biomarkers using longitudinal data on income," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 17/04, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    5. Hannes Kröger & Rasmus Hoffmann & Lasse Tarkiainen & Pekka Martikainen, 2018. "Comparing Observed and Unobserved Components of Childhood: Evidence From Finnish Register Data on Midlife Mortality From Siblings and Their Parents," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 55(1), pages 295-318, February.
    6. Mersky, Joshua P. & Janczewski, Colleen E. & Nitkowski, Jenna C., 2018. "Poor mental health among low-income women in the U.S.: The roles of adverse childhood and adult experiences," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 206(C), pages 14-21.
    7. Berg, Mark T. & Simons, Ronald L. & Barr, Ashley & Beach, Steven R.H. & Philibert, Robert A., 2017. "Childhood/Adolescent stressors and allostatic load in adulthood: Support for a calibration model," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 193(C), pages 130-139.

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:156:y:2016:i:c:p:114-124. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/315/description#description .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.