This study seeks to investigate the intervening mechanisms linking childhood adversity with early adult mental health and social functioning, based on secondary analyses of a 10-year longitudinal study which ranges over the adolescent and early adult years. The proposed work will examine the extent to which early experiences compromise adult mental health by disrupting adolescent social relationships and psychological development, and by fostering unsuccessful transitions to and experiences in the major social roles signalling entry into adulthood. The first specific aim involves drawing upon 5 waves of panel data to clearly establish the relationships among early adversities, adolescent mental health and social development, successful entry into early adult roles, and early adult depression. By incorporating several assessments of experiences during the adolescent and early adult years, the proposed study addresses one of the major gaps in knowledge hampering virtually all previous investigations of these mechanisms and improves upon the measures available to investigators in prior studies. Second, the impact of early adversity on the timing, stability and quality of youths' transitions into and experiences in school and work roles, marriage and intimate relationships, and patenting, will be examined. Third, the proposed study will examine alternative specifications of the intervening processes tying early experiences to later life. The role of early childhood adversities in increasing vulnerability to the effects of subsequent stresses and transitions will be examined, as will the possibility that these early family experiences may set in motion developmental processes that reduce individuals' emotional reactivity to subsequent family problems. Analyses will be based upon 5 waves of existing panel data on a sample of 900 young adults aged 22-26. An additional wave of data collection for the entire sample is proposed, scheduled for 3 years following the final data collection for the existing project. Results will contribute to a greater understanding of the mechanisms through which stressful experience in childhood place individuals at risk for serious and persistent maladaptation, and more generally, to an understanding of the interdependence between individual predispositions and environmental stimuli in shaping development over significant periods of the life course.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
First Independent Research Support & Transition (FIRST) Awards (R29)
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Social and Group Processes Review Committee (SGP)
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Boyce, Cheryl A
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University of Connecticut
Schools of Dentistry
United States
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Aseltine Jr, R H; Gore, S; Gordon, J (2000) Life stress, anger and anxiety, and delinquency: an empirical test of general strain theory. J Health Soc Behav 41:256-75