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Childhood adversity and adult depression: The protective role of psychological resilience

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Poole, J.C., Dobson, K.S., Pusch, D. (2017). Childhood adversity and adult depression: The protective role of psychological resilience. Child Abuse & Neglect, 64, 89-100.


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction, have been identified as salient risk factors for adult depression. However, not all individuals who experience ACEs go on to develop depression. The extent to which resilience- or the ability to demonstrate stable levels of functioning despite adversity- may act as a buffer against depression among individuals with a history of ACEs has not been adequately examined. To address the associations between ACEs, depression, and resilience, 4006 adult participants were recruited from primary care clinics. Participants completed self-report questionnaires including: the Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire, a retrospective measure of childhood adversity; the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, a measure of the presence and severity of the major symptoms of depression; and the Connor Davidson Resilience Scale, a measure of psychological resilience. Results from regression analyses indicated that, while controlling for a range of demographic variables, both ACEs and resilience independently predicted symptoms of depression, F(9, 3040) = 184.81, R2 = 0.354. Further, resilience moderated the association between ACEs and depression, F(10, 3039) = 174.36, p < 0.001, R2 = 0.365. Specifically, the association between ACEs and depression was stronger among individuals with low resilience relative to those with high resilience. This research provides important information regarding the relationships among ACEs, resilience, and depression. Results have the potential to inform the development of treatments aimed to reduce symptoms of depression among primary care patients with a history of childhood adversity.

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