, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 239-249,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 20 Sep 2008

Early Childhood Adversities and Trajectories of Psychiatric Problems in Adoptees: Evidence for Long Lasting Effects


The aim of the present study is to investigate whether early childhood adversities determine the longitudinal course of psychiatric problems from childhood to adulthood; in particular if the impact of early maltreatment on psychopathology decreases as time passes. A sample of 1,984 international adoptees was followed (955 males and 1029 females; adopted at the mean age of 29 months). Parents provided information about abuse, neglect and number of placements prior to adoption at baseline and completed the Child Behavior Checklist or the Young Adult Behavior Checklist three times when their children were between 10 and 30 years of age. Multilevel analyses were performed to determine trajectories of psychiatric problems. Experience of early childhood adversity prior to adoption substantially increased the level of psychiatric problems, especially when maltreatment was severe. Moreover, the impact of early adversities on psychiatric problems remained markedly stable. This suggests that vulnerability of early-maltreated children persists even if they are taken out of their problematic environments and are raised in enriched circumstances.