Racial/ethnic differences in the association of childhood adversities with depression and the role of resilience

Nagy Adel Youssef, Daniel Belew, Guang Hao, Xiaoling Wang, Frank A. Treiber, Michael Edward Stefanek, Mark Yassa, Elizabeth Boswell, W. Vaughn McCall, Shaoyong Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Background Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) including childhood abuse and trauma increase depressive symptoms. The role of resilience and how it interacts with both ACEs and the potential development of depressive symptoms, including how race and ethnicity moderate these effects, are much less studied. The aims of this study were to examine: 1) whether there is a dose-response relationship between trauma and depressive symptoms; 2) whether early trauma affected European Americans (EA) and African Americans (AA) in a similar fashion; and 3) whether resilience mitigates the effect of trauma. Methods The present study comprised a cross-sectional study of subjects from a longitudinal cohort. All subjects were 19 years or older with traumatic experiences prior to age 18. Subjects were assessed for depressive symptoms as well as resilience. Results In 413 subjects enrolled, ACEs were significantly associated with depression severity in a dose-response fashion (p<0.001). Notably, AAs had lower depression scores at low to moderate levels of ACEs than EAs, but reported comparable levels of depression with severe exposure to ACEs (pInteraction=0.05). In both EAs and AAs, young adults with high and medium levels of resilience showed less depressive symptoms compared to those with low resilience (p<0.05). Limitations to consider are the cross-sectional design, possibility of other confounders, and potential for recall bias of this study. Conclusion While ACEs were significantly associated with severity of depression in a dose-response fashion, higher resilience mitigated the impact of childhood adversities on depressive symptoms in young adults. The results are encouraging, and guides research for therapeutics to boost resilience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-581
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 15 2017


  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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