Early life adversity (ELA) is associated with sexual risk, but ELA dimensions—and potential mechanisms—have been less examined. We evaluated associations between threat and deprivation—two key ELA dimensions—and sexual behaviors in adolescents. Secondary analyses investigated age at menarche as a mechanism linking ELA with sexual outcomes in girls. We predicted associations between threat and sexual behaviors, with younger age at menarche as a pathway.
Data were from the National Comorbidity Survey, Adolescent Supplement. Adolescents and caregivers reported on youths' ELA experiences, which were categorized as threat- or deprivation-related. Adolescents reported if they engaged in sex (N = 9,937) and on specific sexual risk indicators, including age at first sex, number of past-year sexual partners, and condom use consistency (“always” vs. “not always” used). Girls reported age at menarche.
Threat (odds ratio [OR] = 1.76 [95% confidence interval [CI], 1.62–1.92]) and deprivation (OR = 1.51 [95% CI, 1.24–1.83]) were each linked with engagement in sex, ps<.05. Threat-related experiences were associated with multiple sexual risk markers, even when accounting for deprivation: earlier age at first sex (b = −0.20 [95% CI, −0.27 to 0.13]), greater number of partners (b = 0.17 [95% CI, 0.10–0.25]), and inconsistent condom use (OR = 0.72 [95% CI, 0.64–0.80]), ps <.001. Deprivation was not associated with sexual risk when adjusting for threat. We observed no significant indirect effects through age at menarche.
Although threat and deprivation were related to engagement in sexual activity, threat-related experiences were uniquely associated with sexual risk. Screening for threat-related ELA may identify adolescents at-risk for poor sexual health.
Background: Despite the high prevalence of childhood adversity and well-documented associa- tions with poor academic achievement and psychopathology, effective, scalable interventions remain largely unavailable. Existing interventions targeting growth mindset—the belief that personal characteristics are malleable—have been shown to improve academic achievement and symptoms of psychopathology in youth.
Objective: The present study examines growth mindset as a potential modifiable mechanism un- derlying the associations of two dimensions of childhood adversity—threat and deprivation—- with academic achievement and internalizing psychopathology. Participants and setting: Participants were 408 youth aged 10–18 years drawn from one timepoint of two longitudinal studies of community-based samples recruited to have diverse experiences of childhood adversity.
Method: Experiences of threat and deprivation were assessed using a multi-informant, multi- method approach. Youth reported on growth mindset of intelligence and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Parents provided information about youths’ academic performance. Results: Both threat and deprivation were independently associated with lower growth mindset, but when accounting for co-occurring adversities, only the association between threat and lower growth mindset remained significant. Lower growth mindset was associated with worse academic performance and greater symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Finally, there was a signifi- cant indirect effect of experiences of threat on both lower academic performance and greater symptoms of anxiety through lower growth mindset.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that growth mindset could be a promising target for efforts aimed at mitigating the impact of childhood adversity on academic achievement and psychopathology given the efficacy of existing brief, scalable growth mindset interventions.
Child abuse is associated with elevated risk for psychopathology. The current study examined the role of automatic emotion regulation as a potential mechanism linking child abuse with internalizing psychopathology. A sample of 237 youth aged 8–16 years and their caregivers participated. Child abuse severity was assessed by self-report questionnaires, and automatic emotion regulation was assessed using an emotional Stroop task designed to measure adaptation to emotional conflict. A similar task without emotional stimuli was also administered to evaluate whether abuse was uniquely associated with emotion regulation, but not cognitive control applied in a nonemotional context. Internalizing psychopathology was assessed concurrently and at a 2-year longitudinal follow-up. Child abuse severity was associated with lower emotional conflict adaptation but was unrelated to cognitive control. Specifically, the severity of emotional and physical abuse, but not sexual abuse, were associated with lower emotional conflict adaptation. Emotional conflict adaptation was not associated with internalizing psychopathology prospectively. These findings suggest that childhood emotional and physical abuse, in particular, may influence automatic forms of emotion regulation. Future work exploring the socioemotional consequences of altered automatic emotion regulation among youth exposed to child abuse is clearly needed.