The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.
A Columbia University study found that positive relationships with parents and other adults during childhood are associated with better mental health in adulthood, regardless of exposure to adverse childhood experiences.
The findings, published in JAMA Psychiatry, suggest that interventions promoting supportive adult connections during childhood could pay dividends in young adult population health, reducing the sociocultural risk of mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
“For kids, an extremely important resilience factor is a warm, nurturing relationship with a parent, caregiver, or other adult,” said lead study author Sara VanBronkhorst, MD, MPH, voluntary faculty in psychiatry at Columbia. “Our study demonstrates that children who have at least one positive, committed adult-child relationship are less likely to experience depression, anxiety, and perceived stress later in life.”
To identify markers of resilience, the investigators examined data from 2,000 participants in the Boricua Youth Study (BYS), a longitudinal study following three generations of families for 20 years, led by Cristiane Duarte, senior author of the JAMA Psychiatry paper. All participants in BYS are of Puerto Rican descent, about half originally residing in the island of Puerto Rico and others residing in the South Bronx, New York.
The researchers assessed for adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, at three points during childhood. These experiences can include things like physical or emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver mental illness, death or incarceration, and household violence.
They also measured seven sociocultural factors associated with resilience, which included social relationships (maternal warmth and friendships) and sources of meaning (familism and family religiosity). Mental health outcomes were measured during young adulthood and included generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, substance use disorder, and perceived stress.
As hypothesized, they found that the measures of social relationships, apart from peer relationships, were associated with less depression and anxiety and less perceived stress in young adulthood.