Exposure to Racism and Other Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Perinatal Women with Moderate to Severe Mental Illness

Community Ment Health J. 2020 Jul;56(5):867-874. doi: 10.1007/s10597-020-00550-6. Epub 2020 Jan 18.


We sought to determine the prevalence and correlates of conventional and expanded adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including exposure to violence and racism, in perinatal women with mental illness. 133 perinatal women with mental illness completed the original ACEs (conventional ACEs) survey and the 6-question adverse environmental experiences (expanded ACEs) survey from the Philadelphia ACEs study. Associations between racial groups and ACE scores, mental health and psychosocial variables were evaluated. Subjects were predominantly white (68%) and married/partnered (66%), and 57% had at least 4 conventional ACEs. Compared to White women, Black women were significantly more likely to report conventional and expanded ACEs including experiencing racism and witnessing violence. Early life adversity was exceedingly common among pregnant and postpartum women with moderate to severe mental illness. Childhood exposure to racism and environmental trauma are important risk categories for perinatal mental illness.

Keywords: Adverse childhood experiences; Mental health; Perinatal depression; Trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Mental Health
  • Philadelphia
  • Pregnancy
  • Racism*