Childhood adversity may be associated with a heightened risk of mental illness

Research funded by the Health Research Board of Ireland and the European Research Council studied how childhood adversity may increase the risk of mental illness by late adolescence.

During their study, released in Psychological Medicine, researchers from RCSI reviewed data containing more than 6,000 participants as part of the Growing Up In Ireland Study. The participants were aged 9 to 17.

According to the study: “Counterfactual and traditional mediation was used to investigate the mediating effects of the parent-child relationship, peer relations, self-concept, computer usage and physical activity.”

Based on the consensus of the RCSI research group, childhood adversity was associated with a heightened risk of internalizing problems, like anxiety, and externalizing problems, like hyperactivity, by age 17.

“Children who experience multiple or severe life events are at an increased risk of mental health problems, but not all of those exposed to such events develop such problems. Our research points to some factors that can be useful for off-setting the risk of mental health problems in those who have been exposed to difficult life events,” said the study’s lead author in a news release.

“Among children who have experienced adversity, we found that reducing conflict between the parent and child and fostering a warm relationship can protect them from a broad range of later mental health problems,” said another author of the study.

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