Adverse childhood experiences, health perception, and the role of shared familial factors in adult twins

Mostoufi S, Strachan E, Chopko L, Succop A, Martinez B, Ahumada S, Afari N

To examine the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and health perception in adulthood, and to explore the contribution of shared familial factors to these associations. Data were collected from 180 female twins (90 pairs) from the community-based University of Washington Twin Registry. Participants completed questionnaires including the modified ACE Questionnaire, Traumatic Life Events Questionnaire, McGill Pain Questionnaire-Short Form, and the SF-36. Mixed effects linear regression modeling investigated the effects of ACE on indices of health perception controlling for correlated twin data. Additional models examined the associations while controlling for the experience of physical and/or sexual abuse in childhood; within-twin pair models that inherently adjust for familial factors explored shared familial influences. After controlling for relevant demographic variables, more ACE was associated with worse perceptions of general health (p=.01) and vitality (p=.05) on the SF-36. After controlling for childhood physical and/or sexual abuse, the relationship between ACE and general health remained significant (p=.01) while vitality was no longer significant. None of the associations remained significant after accounting for the influence of familial factors. These results support previous findings on the negative link between ACE and perceived health in adulthood. The detrimental effects of ACE on vitality may be accounted for by the experience of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse. Shared familial factors might play a partial role in the relationship between ACE and health perception. Future research should further investigate the genetic and environmental mechanisms that may explain this relationship.

Adverse childhood experiences, health perception, and the role of shared familial factors in adult twins. Child Abuse and Neglect. 2013 Nov; 37(11):910-6.