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Exposure to Racism and Other Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Perinatal Women with Moderate to Severe Mental Illness

Abstract

We sought to determine the prevalence and correlates of conventional and expanded adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including exposure to violence and racism, in perinatal women with mental illness. 133 perinatal women with mental illness completed the original ACEs (conventional ACEs) survey and the 6-question adverse environmental experiences (expanded ACEs) survey from the Philadelphia ACEs study. Associations between racial groups and ACE scores, mental health and psychosocial variables were evaluated. Subjects were predominantly white (68%) and married/partnered (66%), and 57% had at least 4 conventional ACEs. Compared to White women, Black women were significantly more likely to report conventional and expanded ACEs including experiencing racism and witnessing violence. Early life adversity was exceedingly common among pregnant and postpartum women with moderate to severe mental illness. Childhood exposure to racism and environmental trauma are important risk categories for perinatal mental illness.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the individuals who participated in this study as well as Peter F. Cronholm, MD, MSCE for his feedback and for providing the prevalence data of conventional and expanded ACEs for women from his original sample described in our manuscript (Cronholm et al. 2015).

Funding

This study was funded in part by a gift from the Lynne and Andrew Redleaf Foundation.

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Correspondence to Helen G. Kim.

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Kim, H.G., Kuendig, J., Prasad, K. et al. Exposure to Racism and Other Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Perinatal Women with Moderate to Severe Mental Illness. Community Ment Health J 56, 867–874 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-020-00550-6

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Keywords

  • Perinatal depression
  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Mental health
  • Trauma