Objective: Stressful life events have been shown to constitute a risk factor for type 1 diabetes during childhood. Our aim was to investigate in the general child population (i.e., irrespective of genetic risk for type 1 diabetes) whether mothers' experiences of serious life events, such as divorce and violence, were associated with diabetes-related autoimmunity in their children at age 2.5 years.
Research design and methods: The study cohort was comprised of the first 5,986 consecutive children and their families from the prospective population-based All Babies in Southeast Sweden project for whom 2.5-year study data were available. Data were drawn from parental questionnaires that included questions about experiences of serious life events and the blood samples taken from the children when the children were age 2.5 years. The blood samples were analyzed for diabetes-related autoantibodies against tyrosine phosphatase and GAD.
Results: Mothers' experiences of divorce (odds ratio 3.6, 95% CI 1.4-9.6, P < 0.05) and violence (2.9, 1.0-7.8, P < 0.05) were associated with diabetes-related autoimmunity in the children, independent of a family history of type 1 diabetes.
Conclusions: The results support the beta-cell stress hypothesis and suggest that maternal experiences of serious life events such as divorce and violence seem to be involved in the induction or progression of diabetes-related autoimmunity in children at age 2.5 years, independent of family history of type 1 diabetes.