Adversity in childhood and measures of ageing in mid-life: Findings from a cohort of British women

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Background: Very few studies have assessed whether socioeconomic and psychosocial adversity during childhood are associated with objective measures of ageing later in life. We assessed associations of socioeconomic position (SEP) and total psychosocial adversity during childhood, with objectively measured cognitive and physical capability in women during mid-life.

Methods: Adverse childhood experiences were retrospectively reported at mean ages 28-30 years in women from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children (N=2,221). We investigated associations of childhood SEP and total psychosocial adversity, with composite measures of cognitive and physical capability at mean age 51 years.

Results: There was evidence that, compared to participants who’s fathers had ‘professional’ occupations, participants who’s father’s had ‘managerial/technical’, ‘skilled non-manual’, ‘skilled manual’ and ‘partly or unskilled manual’ occupations had, on average, lower physical and cognitive capability. There was a clear trend for increasing magnitudes of association with lowering childhood SEP. There was also evidence that greater total psychosocial adversity in childhood was associated with lower physical capability. Total psychosocial adversity in childhood was not associated with cognitive capability.

Conclusions: Lower SEP in childhood is detrimental to cognitive and physical capability in mid-life, at least in part, independently of subsequent SEP in adulthood. Greater psychosocial adversity in childhood is associated with poorer physical capability, independently of social disadvantage in childhood. Our findings highlight the need for interventions to both identify and support children experiencing socioeconomic or psychosocial of adversity as early as possible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-530
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology and Aging
Issue number6
Early online date10 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Childhood
  • Adversity
  • Psychosocial
  • Socioeconomic position
  • Ageing
  • Cognitive
  • Physical


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