B3928 - Mechanisms linking early life exposures to comorbidity in young adulthood - 19/11/2021

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Melissa Tracy | University at Albany, State University of New York (United States)
Allison Appleton
Title of project: 
Mechanisms linking early life exposures to comorbidity in young adulthood
Proposal summary: 

Exposure to childhood adversity, including interpersonal violence, financial stressors, and household dysfunction, has been consistently linked to a variety of adverse physical and mental health outcomes in adolescence and adulthood. However, our understanding of the biological, behavioral, and social mechanisms that link different patterns of childhood adversity to specific outcomes is currently limited. In particular, the risk of co-occurring mental health, substance use, and physical health problems in young adulthood may stem from different pathways during the course of childhood and adolescence. In this study, we will examine the biological, behavioral, and social mechanisms through which trajectories of childhood adversity influence comorbid behavioral and physical health conditions in young adulthood. This project expands on our previous work using ALSPAC data to identify relations between childhood adversity trajectories and distinct outcomes in young adulthood, including depressive symptoms and violent behaviors. We will examine epigenetic and biologic mechanisms including differential DNA methylation, inflammation, heart rate, and stress-related biomarkers, as well as potential behavioral mediators like temperament, impulsivity, locus of control, mental health, parental supervision, and self-esteem. Social mechanisms will include the intergenerational transmission of behaviors from parents to children and peer influences. We will also consider characteristics at different stages of the life course, including in utero exposure to environmental toxicants, a positive home environment during childhood, and the presence of other supportive relationships in adolescence, as potential moderators of the relation between childhood adversity trajectories and subsequent outcomes. Finally, we will incorporate relations of interest into a computational agent-based model that can be used to simulate hypothetical interventions to prevent the development of adverse health outcomes.

Impact of research: 
We expect this research to make important contributions to our understanding of the biological, behavioral, and social mechanisms through which childhood adversity influences later life outcomes. We plan to incorporate innovative methodologies in examining our research questions, including causal mediation analysis, to ensure a rigorous and appropriate approach that takes full advantage of the life-course nature of the ALSPAC data. Our focus on potential mediators and moderators of the relation between childhood adversity and subsequent health outcomes will provide important insights into leverage points for intervention. These intervention points will themselves be tested in our agent-based simulation model, informed by ALSPAC and other data sources, which will provide evidence for the optimal timing and targeting of interventions and shed light on future research directions. We expect this work to be of interest to the scientific community and yield several high-impact publications in peer-reviewed journals. We will also work to disseminate our work to practitioners and other stakeholders working with children and families.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 15 November, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Friday, 19 November, 2021
Epidemiology, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia, Mental health, Computer simulations/modelling/algorithms, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Development, Epigenetics, Injury (including accidents), Parenting, Social science