[The relationship between adverse childhood experiences and mental health in adulthood. A systematic literature review]

Tijdschr Psychiatr. 2013;55(4):259-68.
[Article in Dutch]


Background: Traumatic childhood experiences are important societal problems and have far-reaching mental and somatic consequences. There is a considerable amount of literature concerning the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and anxiety, depression and substance abuse in adulthood.

Aim: To integrate systematically all available research data on this relationship.

Method: We studied the literature via PubMed and PsycINFO using the search terms ‘ACEs', ‘anxiety', ‘depression', ‘substance abuse', and ‘impact'.

Results: 65 publications were included in our study. Child abuse, substance abuse and parents' divorce were found to be very frequent risk factors. On average, the occurrence of emotional, sexual and physical child abuse was the most important risk factor for the development of depression. The greatest risk factors for anxiety disorders were sexual child abuse and family violence. Strong correlations were also found between family violence or physical neglect and substance abuse.

Conclusion: Strong correlations were shown to exist between various ACEs and later symptoms or diagnoses of depressive and anxiety disorders in persons abusing drugs or alcohol. It seems to be mainly child abuse and family violence which have a major impact on the future mental health of victims.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Violence / psychology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data