Childhood adversity and vulnerability to mood and disorders

Elizabeth A. Young, James L. Abelson, George C. Curtis, Randolph M. Nesse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Based upon epidemiological surveys, adverse childhood events are proposed to be risk factors for adult depressive and anxiety disorders. However, the extent to which these events are seen in clinical patient populations is less clear. We examined the prevalence of a number of proposed risk factors for depression in 650 patients with mood and anxiety disorders at the time of presentation for treatment in an outpatient subspecialty clinic. Emotional abuse, physical abuse, or sexual abuse (childhood a. was found in approximately 35% of patients with major depression and panic disorder, was more common in women than men, and was associated with an earlier onset of symptoms. Childhood adversity was also strongly associated with marital discord/divorce, and psychopathology in a parent, suggesting family discord predisposes to childhood abuse. Furthermore, the association of childhood abuse with parental mental illness suggests that genetic and environmental factors are difficult to separate as etiological factors in vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-72
Number of pages7
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Childhood adversity
  • Emotional abuse
  • Family discord
  • Mood and anxiety disorders
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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