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Childhood Protective Factors and Future Adult Health Outcomes in an Urban Environment



To evaluate protective factors that help individuals overcome adverse health outcomes associated with childhood trauma in an urban environment.


This retrospective cohort study included adults born between 1970 and 1995 who grew up in the former Cabrini-Green Homes, a low-income, Chicago public housing development. Participants completed surveys asking about general health, smoking, and mental health status. Surveys included questions related to neighborhood and family support, community safety, and childhood youth program participation. Simple regression models were performed to compare childhood exposure of adverse and protective factors to adult health outcomes. Multivariable logistic regression models were constructed to adjust for age, sex, and educational attainment.


334 former residents completed the survey, and only those that reported an adversity score ≥ 2 were included in the analysis (n = 248). For those individuals who reported that their families cared for them as children, they described feeling hopeful about the future (OR 2.77, 95% CI, 1.28-6.00, aOR 2.63, 95% CI, 1.21–5.75) and reported decreased smoking rates as adults (OR 0.30, 95% CI, 0.14–0.66, aOR 0.35, 95% CI, 0.16–0.78). Better self-reported adult health status was associated with residents who believed the neighborhood looked out for one another (OR 2.31, 95% CI, 1.21–4.42, aOR 2.01, 95% CI, 1.02–3.95).


These findings suggest that a caring family and neighborhood connectedness are protective in mitigating childhood adversity. Devoting resources to strengthen families and communities is a promising strategy to promote healthier adult behaviors.

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This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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Correspondence to Rachel Orbuch BA.

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KS is a co-founder of the Chicago Youth Programs. She did not participate in the analysis of the data. All other authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

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Orbuch, R., Rosenow, W.T., Yousuf, S. et al. Childhood Protective Factors and Future Adult Health Outcomes in an Urban Environment. Journ Child Adol Trauma (2022).

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  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Childhood trauma
  • Resilience
  • Protective factors, neighborhood
  • Race