Depression and sensitization to stressors among young women as a function of childhood adversity

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2000 Oct;68(5):782-7.


The authors tested a stress-sensitization version of a diathesis-stress approach to depression. In a 2-year longitudinal follow-up design, exposure to stressful life events was examined in young women in the transition to adulthood. The authors hypothesized that those who had experienced one or more significant childhood adversities would have a lower threshold for developing a depressive reaction to stressors. Results indicated that women with exposure to one or more childhood adversities--such as family violence, parent psychopathology or alcoholism, and others--were more likely to become depressed following less total stress than women without such adversity. The results could not be accounted for by chronic stress or prior depression. Both biological and psychological sensitization mechanisms may be speculated to play a role, but the actual mechanisms of stress sensitization remain to be explored.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adjustment Disorders / etiology
  • Adjustment Disorders / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Repression-Sensitization
  • Risk
  • Stress, Psychological*