Childhood adversities and adult psychopathology in the WHO world mental health surveys

Ronald C. Kessler, Katie A. McLaughlin, Jennifer Greif Green, Michael J. Gruber, Nancy A. Sampson, Alan M. Zaslavsky, Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, Ali Obaid Alhamzawi, Jordi Alonso, Matthias Angermeyer, Corina Benjet, Evelyn Bromet, Somnath Chatterji, Giovanni De Girolamo, Koen Demyttenaere, John Fayyad, Silvia Florescu, Gilad Gal, Oye Gureje, Josep Maria HaroChi Yi Hu, Elie G. Karam, Norito Kawakami, Sing Lee, Jean Pierre Lépine, Johan Ormel, José Posada-Villa, Rajesh Sagar, Adley Tsang, T. Bedirhan Üstün, Svetlozar Vassilev, Maria Carmen Viana, David R. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Although significant associations of childhood adversities with adult mental disorders are widely documented, most studies focus on single childhood adversities predicting single disorders. Aims: To examine joint associations of 12 childhood adversities with first onset of 20 DSM-IV disorders in World Mental Health (WMH) Surveys in 21 countries. Method: Nationally or regionally representative surveys of 51 945 adults assessed childhood adversities and lifetime DSM-IV disorders with the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). Results: Childhood adversities were highly prevalent and interrelated. Childhood adversities associated with maladaptive family functioning (e.g. parental mental illness, child abuse, neglect) were the strongest predictors of disorders. Co-occurring childhood adversities associated with maladaptive family functioning had significant subadditive predictive associations and little specificity across disorders. Childhood adversities account for 29.8% of all disorders across countries. Conclusions: Childhood adversities have strong associations with all classes of disorders at all life-course stages in all groups of WMH countries. Long-term associations imply the existence of as-yet undetermined mediators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-385
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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