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What the future held: childhood psychosocial adversity is associated with health deterioration through adulthood in a cohort of British women

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Daniel Nettle


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Childhood psychosocial adversity is associated with accelerated onset of reproductive effort in women. Adaptive explanations for this phenomenon are built on the assumption that greater childhood psychosocial adversity is statistically associated with having a shorter period of healthy adult life during which reproduction will be possible. However, this critical assumption is never actually tested using individual-level longitudinal data. In this study, I revisit a large, longitudinally-studied cohort of British women. In an earlier paper, we showed that a simple index of psychosocial adversity in the first seven years of life predicted age at first pregnancy in a dose-dependent manner. Here, I show that the same index of adversity also predicts accelerated deterioration of health across the potentially reproductive period, and increased levels of the inflammatory biomarker c-reactive protein at age 44-46. These associations are robust to controlling for adult socioeconomic position, and do not appear to be solely a consequence of accelerated reproductive schedule. I argue that childhood psychosocial adversity may cause latent somatic damage that will, in adulthood, accelerate age-related physical decline. This provides a compelling adaptive rationale for the accelerated reproductive schedules observed in women who experience childhood psychosocial adversity. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nettle D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Evolution and Human Behavior

Year: 2014

Volume: 35

Issue: 6

Pages: 519-525

Online publication date: 08/07/2014

Acceptance date: 01/07/2014

ISSN (print): 1090-5138

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2014.07.002


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