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Disentangling adversity timing and type: Contrasting theories in the context of maternal prenatal physical and mental health using latent formative models

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2021

André Plamondon*
Department of Educational Fundamentals and Practices, Université Laval, Québec, Canada
Nicole Racine
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Calgary, Canada
Sheila McDonald
Departments of Paediatrics and Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Suzanne Tough
Departments of Paediatrics and Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Sheri Madigan*
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Calgary, Canada
Author for Correspondence: Dr. Sheri Madigan, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Avenue, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4, Canada; E-mail:; or Dr. Andre Plamondon, 2320, rue des Bibliothèques, Université Laval, Québec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada; Email:
Author for Correspondence: Dr. Sheri Madigan, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Avenue, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4, Canada; E-mail:; or Dr. Andre Plamondon, 2320, rue des Bibliothèques, Université Laval, Québec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada; Email:


Research on the effects of adversity has led to mounting interest in examining the differential impact of adversity as a function of its timing and type. The current study examines whether the effects of different types (i.e., physical, sexual, and emotional abuse) and timing (i.e., early, middle childhood, adolescence, or adulthood) of adversity on maternal mental and physical health outcomes in pregnancy, are best accounted for by a cumulative model or independent effects model. Women from a prospective pregnancy cohort (N =3,362) reported retrospectively on their experiences of adversity (i.e., physical, sexual, and emotional abuse) in early childhood (0–5 years], middle childhood (6–12 years], adolescence (13–18 years], and adulthood (19+ years]. Measures of overall health, stress, anxiety, and depression were gathered in pregnancy. Results showed that a cumulative formative latent model was selected as more parsimonious than a direct effects model. Results also supported a model where the strength of the effect of adversity did not vary across abuse timing or type. Thus, cumulative adversity resulted in greater physical and mental health difficulties. In conclusion, cumulative adversity is a more parsimonious predictor of maternal physical and mental health outcomes than adversity at any one specific adversity timing or subtype.

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Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Disentangling adversity timing and type: Contrasting theories in the context of maternal prenatal physical and mental health using latent formative models
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