The mediating role of various types of social networks on psychopathology following aderse childhood experiences

Margaret Mc Lafferty, Siobhan O'Neill, C Armour, SD Murphy, B Bunting

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19 Citations (Scopus)
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Adverse childhood events can have a very negative impact on psychopathology. Those with good social support networks may benefit from these relationships, with social networks protecting a person against the negative effect of childhood adversities. However, individuals who suffer early adversity may have lower levels of social networks due to these experiences. The primary aims of the current study were: 1) to examine the mediating effects of social networks on psychopathology following adverse childhood experiences and 2) to assess if childhood adversities impact on the development of social networks.
Data was obtained from the Northern Ireland Study of Health and Stress (NISHS), conducted as part of the World Mental Health Survey Initiative, n=1,986, response rate 64.8%. The WMH-CIDI was used to assess mental health disorders along with risk and protective factors.
Individuals who experienced childhood adversities had increased odds of psychopathology, especially those who experienced high levels of maltreatment. This was partially mediated by various types of social networks, including family and friend support and family harmony. However, individuals who experienced adversity were less likely to have good social networks in the first instance.
The cross-sectional nature of the study which is based on the population in Northern Ireland may limit the findings.
The study illustrates the importance of social networks following adverse childhood experiences. The findings provide support for initiatives to help children gain skills to develop and maintain social networks following childhood adversities, thereby reducing the negative mental health impact of such experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberJAD9866
Pages (from-to)547
Number of pages553
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date15 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Oct 2018


  • social network
  • Adverse childhood experiences


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