Background: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a potent risk factor. Despite these findings, studies have also recognized the importance of considering additional sources of genetic and environmental influence that cluster within families. Objective: To properly control for latent sources of genetic and within-family environmental influences and isolate the association between ACEs and the following outcomes in adulthood: physical health, depressive symptoms, educational attainment, income attainment, alcohol problems, and antisocial behavior. Participants and Setting: Two independent samples of twins and siblings from the United States: the Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) study (N = 862) and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health; N = 3112). Methods: Sibling comparison models, which control for latent sources of genetic and within-family environmental influences, were estimated to examine whether differential exposure to ACEs was associated with the examined outcomes. Results: Families that experienced more adversity also experienced more deleterious outcomes. However, siblings that experienced more adversity were no more likely to experience deleterious outcomes than their co-siblings. However, greater exposure to ACEs was associated with increases in depressive symptoms (Add Health). Additional models revealed that the similarity between siblings from the same family stemmed from latent sources of within-family environmental influences not captured by traditional ACEs measures. Conclusions: Considering genetic influences and additional latent sources of within-family influences is crucial in isolating the effects of ACEs. Currently employed ACEs measures may not adequately capture the full range of impactful sources of family-level environmental influence.
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Sibling comparison model
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health