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Adversity in childhood and measures of aging in midlife: Findings from a cohort of British women

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel CooperORCiD



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© 2017 The Author(s).Very few studies have assessed whether socioeconomic and psychosocial adversity during childhood are associated with objective measures of aging later in life. We assessed associations of socioeconomic position (SEP) and total psychosocial adversity during childhood, with objectively measured cognitive and physical capability in women during midlife. Adverse childhood experiences were retrospectively reported at mean ages 28-30 years in women from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children (N = 2,221). We investigated associations of childhood SEP and total psychosocial adversity, with composite measures of cognitive and physical capability at mean age 51 years. There was evidence that, compared with participants whose fathers had professional occupations, participants whose fathers had managerial/technical, skilled nonmanual, skilled manual, and partly or unskilled manual occupations had, on average, lower physical and cognitive capability. There was a clear trend for increasing magnitudes of association with lowering childhood SEP. There was also evidence that greater total psychosocial adversity in childhood was associated with lower physical capability. Total psychosocial adversity in childhood was not associated with cognitive capability. Lower SEP in childhood is detrimental to cognitive and physical capability in midlife, at least in part, independently of subsequent SEP in adulthood. Greater psychosocial adversity in childhood is associated with poorer physical capability, independently of social disadvantage in childhood. Our findings highlight the need for interventions to both identify and support children experiencing socioeconomic or psychosocial of adversity as early as possible.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Anderson EL, Heron J, Ben-Shlomo Y, Kuh D, Cooper R, Lawlor DA, Fraser A, Howe LD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Psychology and Aging

Year: 2017

Volume: 32

Issue: 6

Pages: 521-530

Print publication date: 01/09/2017

Acceptance date: 09/05/2017

Date deposited: 20/01/2022

ISSN (print): 0882-7974

ISSN (electronic): 1939-1498

Publisher: American Psychological Association Inc.


DOI: 10.1037/pag0000182

PubMed id: 28891666


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Funder referenceFunder name
ALSPAC mother’s study [data used in our study] is funded by the British Heart Foundation [SP/07/008/24066], Medical Research Council [G1001357], and Wellcome Trust [WT092830M]
National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health [R01AG048835].
Rachel Cooper and Diana Kuh are supported by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council [Programme code MC_UU_12019/4].
United Kingdom Economic and Social Research Council [ES/M010317/1]
United Kingdom Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust [grant reference 092731],