Supportive adults help protect children from mental health issues

A story on looks at new study published in JAMA Psychiatry that examined multigenerational data on Puerto Rican families—and found that positive relationships with adults can boost resilience in children and aid their mental health as they move through life:

A new study led by Dr. Cristiane Duarte of Columbia University has revealed a significant insight into mental health issues. The research team found that supportive relationships with adults during childhood can significantly mitigate the risks of depression and anxiety in adulthood, even in the face of adverse childhood experiences. . . . 

The experts targeted a critical research gap by focusing on marginalized and minoritized youth, who often face multiple adversities. To better understand resilience factors, the team used data from the Boricua Youth Study, which tracked three generations of Puerto Rican families over 20 years. 

The team looked at adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) at three points during childhood. These experiences include physical or emotional abuse; household violence; neglect; and caregiver mental illness, death, or incarceration.

The researchers measured seven sociocultural factors associated with resilience, which included social relationships (maternal warmth and friendships). They also measured the following mental health outcomes during young adulthood: generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, substance use disorder, and perceived stress.

The analysis revealed that positive social relationships, specifically non-peer relationships, were linked to lower instances of mental health issues in adulthood. 

This finding is pivotal, suggesting that the presence of at least one positive adult-child relationship can significantly reduce the likelihood of these mental health issues later in life.”

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