The influence of childhood adversity on social relations and mental health at mid-life

J Affect Disord. 2011 Sep;133(1-2):320-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.03.017. Epub 2011 Apr 11.

Abstract

Background: Childhood adversity is predictive of affective and anxiety disorders in adulthood, although there are likely to be several mediating factors. Social relations and social networks are potential mediators, and have also been linked to onset and recovery of affective and anxiety disorders in adulthood. This study explored positive and negative aspects of close relationships, their association with mid-life anxiety and affective disorders, and their mediating role in the relationship between childhood adversity and mid-life disorders.

Methods: Data from the 1958 British birth cohort were analysed using measures of adversity taken during childhood, measurements of social relations at 45 years, and diagnosis of affective and anxiety disorders at 45 years of age (N=9377).

Results: Childhood adversity was associated with smaller social network size and higher negative aspects of close relationships. Smaller social network size and negative aspects of close relationships, but not emotional or practical support, were associated with higher odds of having affective or anxiety disorder. However, social relations did not mediate or moderate the pathway between childhood adversity and mid-life affective and anxiety disorders.

Limitations: Social relations and affective and anxiety disorders were measured cross-sectionally so direction of causation cannot be determined.

Conclusions: Negative aspects of close relationships and social network size, rather than emotional or practical support, are associated with affective and anxiety disorders. Childhood adversity is related to later social relationships as well as mid-life affective and anxiety disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / complications
  • Mood Disorders / etiology*
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology