Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including child abuse, have been linked with poor health outcomes in adulthood. The mechanisms that explain these relations are less understood. This study assesses whether associations of ACEs and health risks are mediated by adult socioeconomic conditions, and whether these pathways are different for maltreatment than for other types of adversities. Using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2012 survey (N= 29,229), we employ structural equation modeling to (1) estimate associations of the number and type of ACEs with five health risks-depression, obesity, tobacco use, binge drinking, and self-reported sub-optimal health; and (2) assess whether adult socioeconomic conditions-marriage, divorce and separation, educational attainment, income and insurance status-mediate those associations. Findings suggest both direct and indirect associations between ACEs and health risks. At high numbers of ACEs, 15-20% of the association between number of ACEs and adult health risks was attributable to socioeconomic conditions. Associations of three ACEs (exposure to domestic violence, parental divorce, and residing with a person who was incarcerated) with health risks were nearly entirely explained by socioeconomic conditions in adulthood. However, child physical, emotional, and sexual abuse were significantly associated with several adult health risks, beyond the effects of other adversities, and socioeconomic conditions explained only a small portion of these associations. These findings suggest that the pathways to poor adult health differ by types of ACEs, and that childhood abuse is more likely than other adversities to have a direct impact.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health