Adverse Childhood Experiences, Mental Health, and Risk Behaviors in Adulthood: Exploring Sex, Racial, and Ethnic Group Differences in a Nationally Representative Sample

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Abstract

This study examined sex, racial, and ethnic differences in the short- and long-term associations between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), mental health, and risk behaviors in a nationally representative sample. Analysis was based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a longitudinal cohort of U.S. adolescents followed in five waves of data collection from adolescence to adulthood. Analysis included design-based regression models to examine the associations between ACEs and proximal and distal outcomes (i.e., depression, suicidal ideation, number of sexual partners, binge drinking, current smoker) assessed in the transition to adulthood (mean age 21; 2001–2002) and adulthood (mean age 38; 2016–2018). Sex, racial, and ethnic interactions were included in regression models to examine effect modification in the association of ACEs, mental health, and risk behaviors. In this analytical sample (N = 9,690), we identified a graded association between ACEs and depression, suicide ideation, and current smoker status at both time points (i.e., mean age 21 and 38). Sex moderated the relationship between ACEs and depression at mean age 21, while race (i.e., American Indian versus White) moderated the relationship between ACEs and number of sexual partners at mean age 38. A greater number of cumulative traumatic experiences in childhood may amplify adverse health outcomes among women and adults of American Indian descent in particular.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Trauma
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Mental health
  • Racial disparities
  • Risky behaviors
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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