Within the literature, it is known that perinatal (right before and after birth) and later postnatal adversities (e.g., child sexual abuse) are predictors of psychopathology across the lifespan. However, research on the joint effects of perinatal and postnatal adversity on the longitudinal trajectories of mental health, specifically from adolescence through adulthood, is lacking. The ARCH Lab contributed to a recent paper titled “The influence of pre and postnatal adversity on depression and anxiety over two decades” to address this gap in the literature.
Data was drawn from a longitudinal birth cohort of extremely low birth weight survivors and normal birth weight control participants. Self-report data on internalizing (depression, anxiety) and externalizing (antisocial) problems were collected at 12–16, 22–26, and 30–35 years of age. The results showed that those in the low birth weight group who were exposed to early trauma had higher levels of internalizing problems from adolescence through adulthood compared to the control group.
Overall, the results showed that exposure to both perinatal and later postnatal adversity leads to higher internalizing problems than exposure to either adversity alone.