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Many studies have used retrospective reports to assess the long-term consequences of early life stress. However, current individual characteristics and experiences may bias the recall of these reports. In particular, depressed mood may increase the likelihood of recall of negative experiences. The aim of the study was to assess whether specific factors are associated with consistency in the reporting of childhood adverse experiences.
The sample comprised 7466 adults from Canada's National Population Health Survey who had reported on seven childhood adverse experiences in 1994/1995 and 2006/2007. Logistic regression was used to explore differences between those who consistently reported adverse experiences and those whose reports were inconsistent.
Among those retrospectively reporting on childhood traumatic experiences in 1994/1995 and 2006/2007, 39% were inconsistent in their reports of these experiences. The development of depression, increasing levels of psychological distress, as well as increasing work and chronic stress were associated with an increasing likelihood of reporting a childhood adverse experience in 2006/2007 that had not been previously reported. Increases in mastery were associated with reduced likelihood of new reporting of a childhood adverse experience in 2006/2007. The development of depression and increases in chronic stress and psychological distress were also associated with reduced likelihood of ‘forgetting’ a previously reported event.
Concurrent mental health factors may influence the reporting of traumatic childhood experiences. Studies that use retrospective reporting to estimate associations between childhood adversity and adult outcomes associated with mental health may be biased.
The aetiology of depression is multifactorial, with biological, cognitive and environmental factors across the life course influencing risk of a depressive episode. There is inconsistent evidence linking early life development and later depression. The aim of this study was to investigate relationships between low birthweight (LBW), infant neurodevelopment, and acute and chronic stress as components in pathways to depression in adulthood.
The sample included 4627 members of the National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD; the 1946 British birth cohort). Weight at birth, age of developmental milestones, economic deprivation in early childhood, acute stressors in childhood and adulthood, and socio-economic status (SES) in adulthood were assessed for their direct and indirect effects on adolescent (ages 13 and 15 years) and adult (ages 36, 43 and 53 years) measures of depressive symptoms in a structural equation modelling (SEM) framework. A structural equation model developed to incorporate all variables exhibited excellent model fit according to several indices.
The path of prediction from birthweight to age of developmental milestones to adolescent depression/anxiety to adult depression/anxiety was significant (p < 0.001). Notably, direct paths from birthweight (p = 0.25) and age of developmental milestones (p = 0.23) to adult depression were not significant. Childhood deprivation and stressors had important direct and indirect effects on depression. Stressors in adulthood were strongly associated with adult depression.
Depression in adulthood is influenced by an accumulation of stressors across the life course, including many that originate in the first years of life. Effects of early-life development on mental health appear by adolescence.
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