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Can Childhood Adversity Cause Adult Disability?

Posted on May 30, 2013

Blame your childhood! Researchers believe that childhood adversity can make an adult more susceptible to chronic medical conditions and premature death.  

Dr. David A. Brent of the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and co-author Dr. Michael Silverstein of Boston University School of Medicine, have found evidence that childhood stress and trauma may change the way the body and the mind handle stress. 

Childhood abuse, maltreatment, trauma, and neglect cause high levels of stress. This stress changes the way that genes are expressed and can make the child more susceptible to chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease as an adult. These genetic changes may even be passed down to future generations.

But, it’s not just genes. Exposure to childhood poverty, domestic violence, and adult psychiatric illness is also linked to obesity, adult smoking, substance abuse, depression, and attempted suicide.

Does having a rough childhood doom you to poor health? No. The effects are reversible. One study found that when a parent’s post-partum depression is treated, the child becomes better able to handle stress. Another study found that abused toddlers can overcome the effects of early childhood if they are fostered in a positive environment. 

The authors state that early intervention is the best way to improve future health and reduce the staggering economic costs associated with chronic disability. If we provide assistance to parents living in poverty, we may be able to reduce the number of children who grow up to be dependent on Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Social Security Insurance (SSI).

"Shedding Light on the Long Shadow of Childhood Adversity" was published in the April 30, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For help with your own disability case, or to get answers to your questions, contact us today.

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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law