The *Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health* issued the following
news release:

People with parents who fight are more likely to have mental health
problems in later life

Exposure to interparental violence and psychosocial maladjustment in the
adult life course: Advocacy for early prevention

People with parents who were violent to each other are more likely to
have mental health problems when they grow up, reveals research
published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Researchers looked at what impact interparental violence had on people
as children by observing their mental health outcomes in adulthood.

A child being exposed to interparental violence is a form of
maltreatment with consequences for a child’s development, but in some
countries it is only seen as a risk factor for later problems with no
specific outcomes.

The authors studied 3,023 adults in the Paris metropolitan area in 2005
by carrying out at-home face to face interviews.

People who agreed to take part were found from a population based cohort
study in Paris held by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research.

The researchers measured current depression and lifetime suicide
attempts, intimate partner violence, violence against children and
alcohol dependence.

They also asked people about childhood adversities such as parental
separation, divorce, parental death or imprisonment, alcoholism and
physical and/or sexual abuse, as well as asking about social level
stressors including poor parental health, housing problems, prolonged
parental unemployment, and financial troubles.

Among the group of people interviewed, 16% said they had witnessed
interparental violence before the age of 18 and this was far more common
in certain situations. For example, it was up to eight times more likely
in cases where parents had been alcoholics.

Other factors were also relevant and witnessing violence was more common
in families with financial problems, serious parental diseases, housing
problems or unemployment.

After adjusting for family and social level stressors, the researchers
found that people who were exposed to interparental violence had a 1.4
times higher risk of having depression, were more than three times more
likely to be involved in conjugal violence, were almost five times more
likely to mistreat their own child and 1.75 times more likely to have a
dependence on alcohol.

The authors concluded: “Intensification of prevention of and screening
for domestic violence including interparental violence is a public
health issue for the well-being of future generations.”

Courtesy of Ken Pope

June’s *British Journal of Psychiatry* (vol. 194, #6) includes an
article: “Delayed-onset post-traumatic stress disorder among war
veterans in primary care clinics.”

The authors are B. Christopher Frueh, Anouk L. Grubaugh, Derik E.
Yeager, & Kathryn M. Magruder.

Here’s the abstract:

Background

Only limited empirical data support the existence of delayed-onset post-
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Aims

To expand our understanding of delayed-onset PTSD prevalence and
phenomenology.

Method

A cross-sectional, epidemiological design (n = 747) incorporating
structured interviews to obtain relevant information for analyses in a
multisite study of military veterans.

Results

A small percentage of veterans with identified current PTSD (8.3%,
7/84), current subthreshold PTSD (6.9%, 2/29), and lifetime PTSD only
(5.4%, 2/37) met criteria for delayed onset with PTSD symptoms
initiating more than 6 months after the index trauma. Altogether only
0.4% (3/747) of the entire sample had current PTSD with delayed-onset
symptoms developing more than 1 year after trauma exposure, and no PTSD
symptom onset was reported more than 6 years post-trauma.

Conclusions

Retrospective reports of veterans reveal that delayed-onset PTSD
(current, subthreshold or lifetime) is extremely rare 1 year post-
trauma, and there was no evidence of PTSD symptom onset 6 or more years
after trauma exposure.

Courtesy of Ken Pope

“There is an idea current in the prevailing culture that writing about something that means you heal the pain.  I was not, when I began writing my life story, and I am not now, healed of my mother.  You do gain a small distance from anything by keeping it in suspension in your mind while you work at finding the words to fit it.  The process is so slow and incremental that you do not notice its effect, but the point is that it is a process.  I found out when I was a little girl that if you are crying uncontrollably and want to stop, the thing is to do something useful with your tears — water a plant, say.  They’ll dry up for themselves.  The same happens when you try to make sentences of painful material: the material lightens as it is put to work.”

Nualo O’Faolain in “Almost There”, pg. 36.

The Society for Research in Child Development issued the following news
release:

Why are some young victims of domestic violence resilient?

More than 10 million U.S. children witness domestic violence yearly,
resulting in a range of emotional and behavioral problems.

A new study suggests that the reason some of these children are
resilient is because of their easy temperaments and because they have
mentally healthy moms.

The longitudinal study, conducted by researchers at Michigan State
University, is published in the March/April 2009 issue of the journal
Child Development.

The researchers looked at more than 100 American children who had
witnessed violent acts against their mothers when the children were 2,
3, and 4 years old. They also looked at more than 70 children who hadn’t
witnessed violence against their mothers.

Children exposed to violence were almost four times more likely than
others to develop emotional or behavioral problems.

(more…)

Today’s new issue of *Journal of the American Medical Association* (Vol.
301 No. 13, April 1, 2009) includes an article: “Abuse and the Brain” by
Joan Stephenson, PhD.

Here’s how the article begins:

[begin excerpt]

Early childhood abuse might exert lifelong effects by altering a
person’s DNA and reducing levels of glucocorticoid receptors in the
brain, which are important for responding to stress, Canadian scientists
have found (McGowan PO et al. Nat Neurosci. 2009;12[3]:342-348).

The investigators examined brain tissue from 24 men who had committed
suicide, half of whom had a history of childhood abuse, and from 12 men
who had not been abused and died suddenly from other causes.

Men with a history of abuse had lower levels of glucocorticoid receptors
than did men who had not been abused or had not committed suicide.

In addition, in those who had been abused, a snippet of “promoter” DNA
that normally facilitates the production of glucocorticoid receptors had
been silenced by the attachment of a methyl group.

The researchers noted the work confirms their previous findings…

[end excerpt]

The article is online — but requires a subscription — at:
<http://tinyurl.com/comoql&gt;.

Courtesy of Ken Pope

King’s College London issued the following news release:

Childhood abuse associated with onset of psychosis in women

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London have
published new research which indicates that women with severe mental
illness are more likely to have been abused in childhood that the
general population.

But the same association has not been found in men.

The researchers believe their findings point to differences in the way
boys and girls respond to traumatic and upsetting experiences.

The paper which is published in the April issue of the British Journal
of Psychiatry compared two groups of adults with all the participants
were aged between 16 and 64, and lived in either south-east London or
Nottingham.

Those in the first group had experienced psychotic symptoms, such as
hallucinations or delusions and received treatment for depression, mania
or schizophrenia. Those in the second group had no mental health
problems, and acted as a control sample. Both groups were asked whether
they experienced physical or sexual abuse during their childhood.

Women with psychosis were twice as likely to report either physical or
sexual abuse compared to healthy women. But no such association was
found in men.

The researchers suggest that one explanation for this is that girls are
more likely to ‘internalise’ difficulties than boys. In other words,
girls who are abused may distance themselves from other people, and
become overly suspicious of other people’s behaviour. This may put them
at greater risk of psychotic symptoms in the future, such as paranoid
delusions.

In contrast, boys may be more likely to ‘act out’ following physical
abuse and potentially be at greater risk for antisocial behaviour.

The lead author on this paper, Helen Fisher, Researcher in Psychosis at
the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s said: “These findings do not mean
that if a child is abused they will develop psychosis; but women with
such disorders are more likely to reveal a background which included
childhood abuse.

“These findings point to the need for gender-specific interventions for
abused children to prevent later mental health and behavioural problems.”

“We also know that there are psychological, biological and genetic
factors that may contribute to this condition in women and more
attention needs to be given to understanding how adult psychosis
develops. Excitingly we have just been awarded a Wellcome Trust grant to
repeat this original study on a larger scale to enable us to investigate
the factors involved in this link between childhood abuse and psychotic
disorders.”

The paper entitled: “Gender differences in the association between
childhood abuse and psychosis” is published in the British Journal of
Psychiatry, 194: 319-325.

The authors were: Fisher H, Morgan C, Dazzan P, Craig TK, Morgan K,
Hutchinson G, Jones PB, Doody GA, Pariante C, McGuffin P, Murray RM,
Leff J and Fearon P (2009)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison issued the following news release:

Early childhood stress has lingering effects on health

Stressful experiences in early childhood can have long-lasting impacts
on kids’ health that persist well beyond the resolution of the situation.

The conclusion comes from a study revealing impaired immune function in
adolescents who, as youngsters, experienced either physical abuse or
time in an orphanage, when compared to peers who never experienced such
difficult circumstances. The report from the University of Wisconsin-
Madison appears online the week of Jan. 26 in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.

“Even though these children’s environments have changed, physiologically
they’re still responding to stress. That can affect their learning and
their behavior, and having a compromised immune system is going to
affect these children’s health,” says senior author Seth Pollak, a
professor of psychology and pediatrics at UW-Madison.

As director of the Child Emotion Laboratory in the UW-Madison Waisman
Center, Pollak focuses on how experiences early in life affect
children’s subsequent development. In the current work, he and fellow
Wisconsin psychology professor Chris Coe, an expert on the links between
stress and immunity, turned to the immune system as a way to isolate the
consequences of early events.

“The immune system is not preset at birth,” says Coe. “The cells are
there, but how they will develop and how well they’ll be regulated is
very much influenced by your early environment and the type of rearing
you have.”

Led by Elizabeth Shirtcliff of the University of New Orleans when she
was a postdoctoral fellow at UW-Madison, the authors evaluated immune-
system strength among adolescents who had experienced either typical or
unusually stressful childhoods. The researchers looked for high levels
of antibodies against the common and usually latent herpes simplex virus
type 1 (HSV-1).

While roughly two-thirds of Americans carry this virus, which causes
cold sores and fever blisters, people with healthy immune systems are
able to keep the virus in check and rarely if ever have symptoms —
typically, only when stress or illness taxes the immune system. However,
people with weakened immune systems may have trouble suppressing HSV-1
and produce antibodies against the activated virus.

“We can use the control of latent viruses as one way of assessing the
competence of the immune system,” Coe explains. “During times of stress
or if the immune system is not appropriately regulated, the herpes virus
is more likely to reactivate.”

A group of adolescents with documented incidents of past physical abuse
and stressful home environments had higher levels of HSV-1 antibodies,
showing that their immune systems were compromised.

“That is very unfortunate, but it was not surprising,” Pollak says,
since stress is widely known to have negative impacts on immune
function. “It suggests that children’s emotional environments are having
widespread repercussions on their health.”

What was more surprising, however, was that another group of adolescents
in the study, who spent time in orphanages in Romania, Russia or China
before being adopted by U.S. families, showed a similar impairment of
immune regulation.

“These children began their lives in a stressful environment, but
they’re now adolescents, and for a decade, they’ve been living in
stable, affluent, loving environments. And yet, their immune systems are
compromised as well. In fact, they look just like the physically abused
kids,” says Pollak.

While antibodies are typically measured in blood, the researchers used
saliva instead to eliminate any acute stress related to collecting the
samples. There was no difference among the groups in likelihood of
carrying HSV-1, so the results reflect a difference only in the ability
to fight its activation.

“The bottom line is that these early stressors can really have long-term
implications,” Pollak says.

He is particularly concerned about the implications of his findings
given the current economic downturn. International adoptions are
expensive and will likely become harder for many U.S. families, leaving
greater numbers of children in institutional settings for longer periods
of time.

The work was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health.