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Child’s Mental Health and Depression in Adulthood Research Paper

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Updated: May 10th, 2020


Upbringing and atmosphere in a family, as well as relationships between family members, have a strong impact on the way a child chooses to live life. The effect is so robust that it can even lead to particular problems with health. That means that the state of mental health in the early years of life can influence disposition to depression or anxiety disorders in adulthood.

The reason for choosing this topic is because it is a vital issue that affects the well-being of not only a specific person or family but also a community as the whole because mental health concerns in the early age affect the subsequent years of an individual’s life. It is especially acute in the case of United Arab Emirates that, as every country reaping the benefits of speedy economic development, witnesses the increase in the level of depressed children and adolescents. Since nearly every one in five teenagers of school age demonstrates symptoms of depression (Ismali, 2013), that means that, in the close future, it will as well lead to the growth in the numbers of adults suffering from depression. The objective of the proposed research is to provide a comprehensive study focusing on the impact of mental health in childhood on depressions in the adult age.


This research paper will test the hypothesis claiming that depression in the adult age is caused by the state of mental health while being a child.

Undergoing Adverse Childhood Experiences as a Risk Factor of Adult Depression

This section will study adverse childhood experiences as the reason for depression in adulthood. It should be said that adversities are any experiences that may provoke emotional disorders including abuse, neglect, maltreatment, trauma, divorce of parents, bullying, low self-esteem, etc. This section will study adverse childhood experiences in general as the reason for depression in adulthood while the subsequent ones will focus on specific adversities.

Schilling, Aseltine, and Gore (2007) hypothesized that adult depression is often caused by adverse childhood experiences. They conducted the research focusing on studying long-term impacts of adverse childhood experiences associating them with race, gender, and socioeconomic status. The authors have chosen interviews as the method for carrying out their research selecting more than 1,000 of different age, gender, and socioeconomic status. The first series of interviews was conducted in 1998 and then, a couple of years later, they contacted the same people to find out the state of their mental health. The authors have proved that adverse childhood experiences persist into adulthood and, what is more, lead to depressions.

Another investigation of the role childhood that adversities play in adult depressions is the one performed by LeNoue et al. (2012). The authors studied direct impact of childhood adversities and indirect impact of adult adverse experiences on depression in adulthood. They hypothesized that only adversities experienced during the early years of life may lead to adult depression while adult adverse experiences just derive from those of the young life. The authors analyzed the interview of 210 adults suffering from depression caused by both childhood and adult diverse experiences. They concluded that if adult people sense adversities, they are deriving from childhood, and so only experiences of childhood can lead to depression.

The most extensional research of the impact of child adversities was conducted by Kessler et al. (2014), who analyzed World Mental Health Surveys prepared by the World Health Organization. Because the study is theoretical, the method that was chosen for carrying it out is a literature review. The investigation covered 21 countries and more than 50,000 adults who had adverse childhood experiences and the authors concluded that they do not vary across countries. They found that the primary reasons for mental health problems in childhood leading to adult depression were neglect and abuse as well as parents’ mental illnesses.

Maltreatment in Young Age as a Factor Leading to Adult Depression

Li, D’Arcy, and Meng, X. (2015) believe that experiencing maltreatment in childhood entails depression in adulthood. For the purposes of the research, the authors separated maltreatment in groups such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect. They have used literature analysis to study the criteria for defining maltreatment and symptoms of depression and pooled odds ratios to count the correlation between maltreatment in childhood and depression in adulthood as the methods for caring out their investigation. The authors came to a conclusion that the primary type of maltreatment leading to adult depression is experiencing sexual abuse during early years of life while neglect is one of the most rarely met reasons between the three mentioned in the research.

Influence of Experiencing Abuse and Neglect in Childhood on Adult Depression

There is no doubt that abuse has a strong impact on the state of mental health and what adds to the severity of the problem is a character of relations between the victim and perpetrator. There have been many studies concentrating on the consequences of sexual abuse. However, Allen et al. (2014) went further than the researchers before them and claimed a hypothesis that the graveness of the effects relies on the age of the perpetrator. The authors decided to conduct a study involving children who were sexually abused by adults, teenagers, kids of their age and those who have not experienced abuse. The specialty of their research is that they have chosen retrospective reports of child abuse histories as the method for investigation. The results have shown that sexual abuse leads to problems with mental health, however when the offender is of the same or nearly the same age the act is not thought of as abuse but as maltreatment.

Widom, DuMont, and Czaja (2007) hypothesize that neglect in the young age has a powerful influence on the possibility of depression in adulthood. The authors conducted a matching research. They exploited the results of the earlier follow-up study of children who were abused or neglected in the age before 11 and the state of their mental health when they turned more than 27 years old to find whether abuse and neglect in childhood lead to adult depressions. The results of the study demonstrated that those who experienced neglect when they were children are at high risks of current depression while those who were sexually abused are very likely to suffer from lifetime depression.

One more research focusing on the impact abuse and neglect in early life have on adult depression is the one carried out by Herrenkohl et al. (2013). The authors interviewed people in their mid-30s who experienced abuse and neglect in early childhood. They used logistic and linear regressions method to discover whether there is a connection between the child experiences mentioned above and depression in adulthood. The respondents reported symptoms of depression caused by the problems with physical and mental health resulting from childhood diversities. Moreover, the authors used regressions to find whether there is interdependence between socioeconomic status, education, gender and age and depression. They found that the only criterion that affects depression in adulthood is gender of the victim of childhood abuse and neglect while socioeconomic status, age, and the level of education do not.

Impact of Child Bullying on Depressions in Adulthood

Bullying is a risk factor for adult depression. Copeland et al. (2013) state that those who were bullied in childhood and those who are bullying others and adolescence have the same chances of experiencing depression in adulthood. The authors developed their research grouping the respondents based on whether they were bullied, bullied others or both. The results have shown that without regard to the role played bullying has a strong effect on mental well-being, and it leads to depression in adulthood because even as years pass the emotional state of a bully as well as his victim does not return to the initial point. What is more, it very often becomes a reason for committing suicide because of emotional disorders.

Low and Decreasing Self-Esteem in Childhood as a Reason for Adult Depression

According to Steiger et al. (2012), low and decreasing self-esteem in childhood will undoubtedly lead to depression in adulthood. The authors’ primary hypothesis is that what provokes depression is a drastic change in self-esteem. They assessed the level of self-esteem based on physical attractiveness and academic performance of more than 1,500 respondents. The authors have chosen these specific determinants of self-esteem because they are considered to be of the most significance in childhood. The results of the research have demonstrated the link between low or decreasing self-esteem and those who had problems with it when they were at the age of 9 to 16 exhibit the symptoms of depression twenty years later.

One more study focusing on the level of self-esteem based on appearances is that of Sanches-Villegas et al. (2013). The authors focused hypothesized that excess weight whether perceived or obtained and obesity is what affects the level of self-esteem and, thus, child’s mental health state that may lead to depression in adulthood. They carried out a long-lasting survey involving more than 90,000 women and girls whom they divided into groups based on the body mass index and body shape, i.e. on whether they had excess weight or were obese.

The method of carrying out the survey is analyzing the level of self-esteem when the respondents were 10 of age and once again when they turned 20. The results of the study have shown that body weight and shape affects the level of self-esteem and thus the overall mental state. What is more, those who were obese in childhood and adolescent demonstrated more symptoms of depression than those who were not.

Trauma During Early Years as a Factor of Depression in Adulthood

Colman et al. (2012) proved that there is a link between traumas gained in childhood and adult depression. The authors claimed that besides for the depression in adult age, traumas during early years of life also lead to alcoholism and vulnerability to stress. They have selected almost 4,000 people experiencing depression and having problems with heavy drinking to build a linear model using logistic regression. The results of the study have shown that the correlation between trauma and adult depression is strong, however there is no clear connection between trauma and alcoholism.

Childhood Sleeping Difficulties as a Reason for Adult Depression

Greene et al. (2015) conducted an interesting research that hypothesizes that sleeping difficulties in childhood lead to an increased risk of depression in adulthood. The authors conducted a follow-up study focusing on people who reported having problems with sleep when they were at the age of 5. It should be said that sleeping problems are nightmares, bed-wetting, and difficulties in falling asleep and sleeping all night through. Respondents were asked whether they received medical treatment for depression at the age of 35.

The authors have found that sleeping difficulties may become a risk factor for adult depression. Except for the problems with mental health caused by nightmares, they may also derive from changes in parents’ mood when they have to sit with their children all night long if kids have sleeping difficulties. That means that if kids experience similar difficulties, it leads to higher level of stress in the family environment and thus to the change of children’s mental health and, as a result, increases the risk of depression in adulthood.

Interconnection Between Living in Troubled Families and Adult Depression

This section will focus on studying the impact of living with alcohol addicts during young years on the risk of adult depression. According to Anda et al. (2002), living with parents who are alcoholics is the primary reason for adverse childhood experiences and, as a result, problems with mental health and adult depression. The authors analyzed questionnaires sent to more than 13,000 people.

Based on the respondent’s retrospective, the researchers came to a conclusion that those children who lived in the families of alcohol addicts experienced different adversities that, as the result, led to depression when they grew up. It should be said, that among the adversities were not only neglect and maltreatment but also various forms of abuse. What is more, growing up with alcoholics increased the risk of multiple adversities. The most significant finding of the study is that the risk of adverse childhood experiences is higher when the parent who suffers from alcohol abuse is a mother. The same is true in the case of both parents.

Effect of Family Disruption in Childhood on Adult Depression

This section will concentrate on living in the atmosphere of common parental conflicts or single-parent families and how it affects adult depression.

Gilman et al. (2003) conducted a study with the hypothesis that claimed that family disruption in childhood is the reason for major depression in adulthood. The authors defined family disruption as the change of marital status during the first seven years of life stressing that it does not necessarily mean divorce or death of one or both parents. Instead, single mothers who were dumped because of unwanted pregnancy might have got married or married, divorced, and remarried.

In general, it means that the number of family members always changed and the child was forced to adapt to new conditions. The research is based on analyzing the interview of more than 1,000 respondents whose parents divorced when the children were younger than seven years of age. The key finding of the investigation is that family disruption during the first seven years of life inevitably leads to depression in adulthood, but the impact of it is strengthened if children become witnesses of constant parental conflicts.

What also influences the state of mental health in adulthood is whether the child grew up in a family consisting of two parents. There are many reasons for family disruption, but it is not the point of this study. The purpose is to investigate the consequences of the event. Lipman et al. (2001) study the effect of growing up in a single-parent family on child’s mental health and a risk of depression in adulthood. The authors focus their attention on mothers whether they are single or married.

They have chosen reported childhood physical and sexual abuse in the case of single and married mothers as the subject for their study. The hypothesis was that children of single mothers are at higher risks of abuse and thus of adult depression. The authors based on analyzing interviews of almost 1,500 respondents older than 15 years old came to a conclusion that single mothers reported higher levels of children physical and sexual abuse if compared to married. It means that children who grew up in families with single mothers are more exposed to adverse childhood experiences such as abuse and, as a result, are at higher risk of adult depression.

Witnessing Parents’ Mental Illnesses in Childhood as a Reason for Adult Depression

In accordance with the hypothesis claimed in the research conducted by Rasik et al. (2014) children who witnessed parents’ mental problems and illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder are likely to suffer from the same mental illnesses when they grow up. The authors investigated the cases of almost 4,000 kids whose parents have psychiatric illnesses. They have found that, in most cases, those who were witnesses to parents’ sanity problems are at high risks of adult depression if not the same problem. The issue here is that the state of mental health is nor purely developmental and rests upon environment but also has a genetic background. So, if a parent suffers from depressive disorder not to talk about any other illnesses, the possibility that the child will face the same matters at the adult age is critically high.


The research has proved that having problems with mental health in the early years of life is one of the primary reasons for depression in adulthood. It was shown that there are many reasons for problems with psychological well-being such as living in the atmosphere of common parental conflicts, a single-parent family or a family of alcoholics, experiencing physical and sexual abuse or psychological trauma, being a subject of maltreatment and neglect, having low self-esteem and difficulties with sleeping, undergoing adverse childhood experiences, witnessing parents’ problems with mental health, and coming from a family of low socioeconomic status. The overall conclusion is that, in every of the cases mentioned above, the child has suffered from the lack of love and understanding from the family members and surrounding people that resulted in feeling neglect and fear and, finally, led to depression in adulthood.


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Copeland, W. E., Wolke, D., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2013). Adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying and being bullied by peers in childhood and adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry, 70(4), 419-426.free

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