The life course perspective has long theorized that adversity in childhood, a sensitive period for mental, physical, and emotional development, can have long-lasting impacts on health and wellbeing. However, research on the long-term impact of childhood adversity has been disproportionally focused on studying a single adversity, or studying cumulative adversity operationalized as the sum of dichotomous (yes/no) indicators reflecting exposure to negative events. Although informative, these approaches mask how specific types of adversities co-occur, and how unique configurations of adversities relate to outcomes of interest. Using nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health; Wave I-IV), I estimate cumulative adversity using latent class analyses. As opposed to a summative score, these classes reflect both the type and number of adverse events that may co-occur in childhood. I then investigate how these latent classes of adversity predict depressive symptoms from adolescence into early adulthood, clarifying the long-term mental health risks of early life adverse events. Throughout this study, I discuss the methodological benefits and challenges to estimating cumulative adversity using a latent class approach.
Gross Hall, Room 270