This special issue of Psychosomatic Medicine is composed of articles that shed light on the mechanisms by which early life adversity (ELA) influences physical health across the life course. The goal is to facilitate the translation of insights about ELA-related mechanisms into early interventions that can prevent the onset of adverse health problems. In the first article, Guest Editors Nicole R. Bush, Richard D. Lane, and Katie A. McLaughlin provide an overview of the special issue and an integrated perspective on recent developments and important new targets for research in this area.
Pages 976–978; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.2.aspx.
Maternal prenatal major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with numerous adverse offspring outcomes, but mechanisms of prenatal versus preconception history of MDD remain unclear. Stroud et al. revealed (a) unique programming effects of prenatal versus preconception-only MDD on infant cortisol regulation and (b) moderating influences of placental glucocorticoid and serotonergic pathways on links between prenatal MDD and infant cortisol. Results support glucocorticoid and serotonergic pathways as mechanisms and modulators of the intergenerational transmission of risk associated with maternal depression.
Pages 979–990; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.3.aspx.
Prenatal undernutrition, such as in times of famine, has been associated with increased risks of coronary heart disease and increased blood pressure responses to psychological stress. De Rooij et al. investigated autonomic nervous system activity in rest and in response to stress. Measures of sympathetic function and parasympathetic function did not differ between those unexposed and those exposed to famine during late, mid, or early gestation.
Pages 991–997; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.4.aspx.
Economic adversity in childhood increases the risk of physical health problems across the lifespan. A study by Hagan and colleagues reveals two factors that can buffer children against socioeconomic (SES)-related challenges. Analyses of interactions showed that low SES in kindergarten children was related to poor physical health but only when the child’s respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity to stress was low and the parent-child relationship was negative. Results highlight the important moderating influence of individual- and family-level variables for children raised in low SES environments.
Pages 998–1007; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.5.aspx.
Whalen et al. examined the longitudinal trajectories of physical health for children beginning during preschool and continuing into early adolescence. Growth mixture modeling revealed two trajectories of physical health problems: a stable, low group and a high, increasing group, indicating linear increases in physical health problems from ages 3 to 13. Preschool psychiatric diagnoses and financial and psychosocial adversity were associated with a greater incidence of health problems.
Pages 1008–1018; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.6.aspx.
Using prospective data, Winning et al. investigated whether early social disadvantages (including adverse socioeconomic and family exposures) were associated with adult cardiometabolic risk markers. Mediation analyses revealed that childhood distress may be one factor on the pathway linking early social disadvantage to higher risk of developing cardiometabolic diseases.
Pages 1019–1030; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.7.aspx.
Tomfohr-Madsen et al. examine whether a maternal history of child abuse (CA) was associated with an elevated risk of asthma or allergy in children. By using data from 1,551 mother-child dyads, results showed that compared to children born to mothers without a history of having experienced child abuse, children born to mothers with such a history were more likely to have been diagnosed with asthma or allergy by age 2.
Pages 1031–1042; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.8.aspx.
Chen et al. tested associations of SES with immune, behavioral, and clinical outcomes in children with asthma. Higher prestige and resource dimensions of SES were associated with better clinical outcomes. Higher prestige SES was also associated with better environmental control; higher resource SES was associated with more favorable immune regulation and greater glucocorticoid sensitivity. Family status and resources may have different implications for behavioral and immunological processes in childhood asthma.
Pages 1043–1052; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.9.aspx.
Loucks et al. evaluated whether associations of childhood socioeconomic disadvantage with adulthood body mass index (BMI) are mediated by DNA methylation in adipose tissue samples. Epigenome-wide methylation analyses demonstrated evidence of mediation in 91 CpG sites for men and 71 sites for women; many involved genes relevant for obesity. Findings indicate that childhood socioeconomic disadvantage is biologically embedded at the epigenome level.
Pages 1053–1065; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.10.aspx.
In a systematically controlled animal study exploring mechanisms underlying associations between stressful early-life environments with long-term effects on health, Schneper et al. examined telomere length in leukocytes in rhesus monkeys reared in differing social conditions. Telomere lengths were shorter in adults who had been reared without their mothers compared to those reared in social groups.
Pages 1066–1071; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.11.aspx.
McLaughlin et al. examined whether early-life adversity was associated with various chronic pain and other physical conditions in a sample of adolescents. Exposure to violence was associated with elevated odds of having experienced back/neck pain, headaches, chronic pain, allergies, and asthma but only predicted the subsequent first onset of back/neck pain and headaches. The association between violence and incident pain conditions was explained by the onset of mental disorders following exposure to violence.
Pages 1072–1083; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.12.aspx.
You and Meagher examined the impact of childhood adversity on dynamic pain sensitivity assessed using temporal summation of second pain (TSSP). The high-adversity group showed greater TSSP sensitization than the low-adversity group. This suggests that enhancement of central sensitization may provide a mechanism underlying the pain hypersensitivity and chronicity linked to childhood adversity.
Pages 1084–1093; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.13.aspx.
Baldwin et al. investigated whether the experience of being bullied during childhood was associated with being overweight in young adulthood. In a UK longitudinal cohort of 2,000 twins, individuals who had been chronically bullied as children showed higher BMI and waist-hip ratio at age 18 in comparison to individuals who had not been bullied.
Pages 1094–1103; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.14.aspx.
Rates of obesity have been rising in many countries throughout the world, but there are considerable differences in risk between ethnic minority and non-Hispanic white women. Luecken et al. examined the influence of childhood abuse and family conflict on postpartum weight among low-income women of Mexican origin. Self-reported abuse and conflict were associated with higher and increasing weight in the first two postpartum years, mediated by postpartum depressive symptoms and low partner support.
Pages 1104–1113; Web: http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Fulltext/2016/11000/Article.15.aspx.