A difficult childhood harms life prospects

Negative upbringing often impairs people’s conditions and health in the adult years, especially for couples who have gone through similar experiences. This is evidenced by a new study, conducted by researchers at Uppsala University, in which 818 mothers and their partners filled out a questionnaire one year after they had a baby together. The study is now published in the scientific journal PLoS one.

Peer Christianson, MD, a senior lecturer in the Department of Public Health and Care Sciences at Uppsala University and lead author of the study, says.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have dangerous, lifelong repercussions. Previous international studies (such as Felitti et al 1998, Hughes et al 2017, Merrick et al 2018) have shown that they have a higher risk of disease and premature death due to a range of common diseases and conditions. These conditions include severe mental illness, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The higher the number of ACEs, the greater the risk of negative consequences.

The current study is characterized by the unusually high number of couples surveyed. A total of 818 individuals (1636 individuals, from 818 mothers and 818 partners, 3 of whom were women) participated, providing answers to the questionnaire, one year after they had a baby together.

The ACEs the researchers focused on focused on mental and physical abuse and neglect. Sexual assault and problematic situations in the family such as criminal behavior, substance abuse, violence, mental disorders and separation.

Single ACE was common among all respondents, and 11 percent of women and 9 percent of their partners reported having four or more of these experiences. In 2 percent of couples, both people narrated at least four ACEs. If one of the spouses has had it, then it is likely that the other has done so as well.

The higher the number of ACEs for a woman, partner, and couple together, the worse their probability of puberty. Many couples who had a lot of problems in childhood had more problems in adulthood than others. This group of respondents, compared to couples who described their childhood as being problem-free, were characterized to a greater extent by the following:

  • Low educational attainment
  • Low income
  • Poor marital relationships
  • overweight
  • Smoking habits to a large extent
  • Impaired sense of cohesion (SOC)
  • Poor health self-assessment
  • High pressure level
  • High rate of anxiety and depression.

Christianson explains: “The fact that acute respiratory enzymes in early life can have severe consequences associated with severe stress and toxins affecting the central nervous system of children and other organs as they grow.“ Toxic stress ”means the strong, repeated and lasting activation of the body’s stress response system (Shonkoff et al 2009). This indicates that ACE has a negative far-reaching impact on people’s lives and health into an advanced age, and may also affect the next generation. ”

Previous studies (Shonkoff et al 2009, Heckman 2006) indicate that combating toxic stress in the early years brings benefits to society: it improves student performance, enhances economic productivity, and enhances citizens’ sense of responsibility.

“That is why we hope that our findings will prompt public agencies – particularly health care and social services, as well as civil society – to take the lead in discovering, supporting and providing treatment for families and individuals affected by negative childhood experiences.”


Sven-Olof Andersson et al. Harmful childhood experiences are related to mate choice, the relationship of both partners, and psychosocial health as reported one year after the birth of a normal child. Cross-sectional study, PLoS one.

Literature referred to in the press release.

1. Felitti VJ, Anda RF, Nordenberg D, Williamson DF, Spitz AM, Edwards V, et al. Child abuse and domestic dysfunction are related to many of the leading causes of death in adults. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Am J Brave Med. 1998; 14 (4): 245-58.

2. Hughes K, Bellis MA, Hardcastle KA, Sethi D, Butchart A, Mekton C, et al. The impact of multiple negative childhood experiences on health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health. 2017; 2 (8): e356-e66. Epub 12/19/2017. Doi: 10.1016 / S2468-2667 (17) 30118-4

3. Merrick MT, Ford DC, Ports KA, Guinn AS. Prevalence of adverse childhood experiences from the 2011-2014 behavioral risk factor monitoring system in 23 countries. Gamma Pediatr. 2018; 172 (11): 1038–44.

4. Schonkoff GB, Boyce WT, McEwen BS. Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, and the Roots of Health Inequalities in Childhood: Building a New Framework for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Gamma. 2009; 301 (21): 2252-9. Epub 2009/06/06.

5. Hickman J. Skills formation and economics of investment in disadvantaged children. Science, 2006, Volume 312 pp 1900-02.

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