, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 12-17

Gender differences in the association of adult hopelessness with adverse childhood experiences

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Background: The impact of childhood traumatic events on long-term psychological development has been widely studied. Nevertheless, little research has been carried out on possible associations between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and hopelessness in adulthood, and whether any gender differences exist. Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the association between ACEs (poor relationship between parents, unhappiness of childhood home, hard parenting, physical punishment, domestic violence, alcohol abuse in primary family) and current hopelessness without any mental disorder in a general population sample. Method: 1598 adults (43 % were men), aged 25–64 years, completed self-report measures to assess ACEs and hopelessness by means of the Beck Hopelessness Scale (HS). Logistic regression was used to adjust for the effects of sociodemographic factors on the association between the cumulative number of ACEs and hopelessness. Results: Whereas several bivariate associations were found between ACEs and hopelessness, none of them remained significant in multivariate analysis. However, men who reported three or more ACEs were 2.79 times (95 % CI 1.17–6.63) and women 2.19 times (95 % CI 1.04–4.65) more likely to be hopeless compared with those without any ACEs. In women (OR 2.25, 95 % CI 1.01–5.00), but not in men, this relationship remained significant after adjusting for several current covariates. Conclusion: Clustering of ACEs may have long-lasting effects by increasing the risk of hopelessness in adulthood, especially in women. Increased awareness of the frequency of ACEs and their subsequent consequences, such as hopelessness, may encourage health care professionals to undertake preventive work in primary and mental health care.

Received: 3 January 2002 / Accepted: 29 July 2002
Correspondence to Kaisa Maria Haatainen, MHSc