B3931 - Causal inference in the study of adverse childhood experiences and adolescent mental health advancing concepts methods and evi - 29/11/2021

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Laura Howe | MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Annie Herbert, Rebecca Lacey
Title of project: 
Causal inference in the study of adverse childhood experiences and adolescent mental health: advancing concepts, methods and evi
Proposal summary: 

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are “experiences which require significant adaptation by the developing child in terms of psychological, social and neurodevelopmental systems, and which are outside of the normal expected environment” (McLaughlin, 2016). Abuse and neglect; parental substance misuse, intimate partner violence, psychiatric disorders, and separation; and peer victimisation are often considered ACEs. Children who experience ACEs are more likely to develop neurodevelopmental or mental health problems (hereafter referred to collectively as mental health).
The vast majority of the literature documenting associations between ACEs and mental health simply describes associations, with limited attempt to investigate confounding. Study designs specifically intending to interrogate causality are seldom applied to ACEs research. Describing associations between ACEs and mental health can provide valuable information about support needs. However, the optimal design and prioritisation of policies and interventions necessitates higher-quality evidence to establish which aspects of an adolescent’s experiences are causally influencing mental health, and through which causal pathways.
This project will advance research into ACEs and adolescent mental health by looking at whether experiencing ACEs derails people from their mental health trajectory.

Impact of research: 
improved understanding of the causal nature of associations between ACEs and mental health
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 17 November, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 29 November, 2021
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Developmental disorders - autism, Eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia, Mental health, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Social science