Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Childhood adversities and adult depression: basic patterns of association in a US national survey

Ronald C. Kesslera1 c1 and William J. Mageea1

a1 Department of Sociology and Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, USA


The long-term relationships between various forms of childhood adversity and adult episodes of major depression are explored in a representative household survey of the United States adult (age 25 +) population. Seven of the eight childhood adversities considered are significantly associated with recent (12-month) episodes of depression. These effects are largely indirect consequences of some childhood adversities leading to a life history of depression and prior depression leading to new episodes. Only three of the eight childhood adversities directly affect recent onset or recurrence. The paper closes with a discussion of implications for future research on the long-term effects of childhood adversities.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr R. C. Kessler, Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, Box 1248, Ann Arbor, MI 48106–1248, USA.