Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 504–515 | Cite as

Recalled early life adversity and pain: the role of mood, sleep, optimism, and control

  • Ambika Mathur
  • Jennifer E. Graham-EngelandEmail author
  • Danica C. Slavish
  • Joshua M. Smyth
  • Richard B. Lipton
  • Mindy J. Katz
  • Martin J. Sliwinski


Early life adversity (ELA) has been associated with pain symptomatology in adulthood, but mechanisms and moderators of these associations are unclear. Using recall based and concurrently assessed self-report data, we examined associations between ELA, mood, sleep, and recent pain intensity and interference, and whether optimism and perceived control weakened these associations in a midlife community sample of diverse adults reporting some ELA. Controlling for demographic variables and BMI, higher levels of ELA were associated with more pain intensity and interference; greater sleep disturbance and negative mood accounted for these associations. When moderation was examined, only the path from sleep disturbance to pain interference was significantly attenuated for those with higher optimism and higher perceived control. These findings suggest that higher levels of ELA may link with pain in adulthood through poorer mood and sleep, and that resilience resources such as optimism and control may buffer some of these pathways.


Early life adversity Mood disturbance Sleep disturbance Pain Optimism Perceived control and mastery Structural equation modeling 



This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Aging Grants R01AG039409 (PI: Dr. Sliwinski), R01AG042595 (PIs: Drs. Graham-Engeland and Engeland), and AG03949 (PI: Dr. Lipton).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors Ambika Mathur, Jennifer E. Graham-Engeland, Danica C. Slavish, Joshua M. Smyth, Richard B. Lipton, Mindy J. Katz, and Martin J. Sliwinski declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ambika Mathur
    • 1
  • Jennifer E. Graham-Engeland
    • 1
    Email author
  • Danica C. Slavish
    • 2
  • Joshua M. Smyth
    • 1
  • Richard B. Lipton
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Mindy J. Katz
    • 3
  • Martin J. Sliwinski
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Biobehavioral Health, 219 Biobehavioral Health BuildingThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA
  3. 3.The Saul R. Korey Department of NeurologyAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA
  5. 5.Department of Epidemiology and Population HealthAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA
  6. 6.Center for Healthy Aging and Department of Human Development and Family StudiesThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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