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Date: 11 Apr 2014

A longitudinal perspective on childhood adversities and onset risk of various psychiatric disorders

Abstract

It is well-known that childhood adversities can have long-term effects on mental health, but a lot remains to be learned about the risk they bring about for a first onset of various psychiatric disorders, and how this risk develops over time. In the present study, which was based on a Dutch longitudinal population survey of adolescents TRAILS (N = 1,584), we investigated whether and how childhood adversities, as assessed with three different measures, affected the risk of developing an incident depressive, anxiety, or disruptive behavior in childhood and adolescence. In addition, we tested gender differences in any of the effects under study. The results indicated that depressive, anxiety and disruptive behavior disorders each had their own, characteristic, pattern of associations with childhood adversities across childhood and adolescence, which was maintained after adjustment for comorbid disorders. For depressive disorders, the overall pattern suggested a high excess risk of incidence during childhood, which decreased during adolescence. Anxiety disorders were characterized by a moderately increased incident risk during childhood, which remained approximately stable over time. Disruptive behavior disorders took an intermediate position. Of the three childhood adversities tested, an overall rating of the stressfulness of the childhood appeared to predict onset of psychiatric disorders best. To conclude, the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder after exposure to adversities early in life depends on the nature of the adversities, the nature of the outcome, and the time that has passed since the adversities without disorder onset.