Social Disadvantage, Severe Child Abuse, and Biological Profiles in Adulthood

Lee, Chioun, Chris L. Coe, and Carol D. Ryff. (2017).  Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 58(3), 371–386. [Journal Link]

Guided by the stress process model and the life course perspective, we hypothesize: (1) that childhood abuse is concentrated, in terms of type and intensity, among socially disadvantaged individuals, and (2) that experiencing serious abuse contributes to poor biological profiles in multiple body systems in adulthood. Data came from the Biomarker subsample of Midlife in the United States (2004–2006). We used latent class analysis to identify distinct profiles of childhood abuse, each reflecting a combination of type and severity. Results indicate that disadvantaged groups, women, and those from disadvantaged families are at greater risk of experiencing more severe and multiple types of abuse. Those with more severe and multifaceted childhood abuse show greater physiological dysregulation. Childhood abuse experiences partially accounted for the social status differences in physiological profiles. Our findings underscore that differential exposure to serious childhood stressors plays a significant role in gender and class inequalities in adult health.