Adverse childhood experiences and deleterious outcomes in adulthood: A consideration of the simultaneous role of genetic and environmental influences in two independent samples from the United States

Joseph A. Schwartz, Emily M. Wright, Bradon A. Valgardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)420-431
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume88
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2019

Keywords

  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Development
  • Sibling comparison model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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