Adverse Childhood Experiences Dramatically Increase Depression Risk

New research suggests that depressive symptoms may be primarily driven by adverse childhood experiences.


In findings recently published in the Community Mental Health Journal, researchers document the strong link between traumatic experiences in early life and the onset of depression in later years.

The study, spearheaded by Erica Van Overloop at the University of Southern Mississippi, particularly underscores the profound impact of sexual abuse in childhood as a primary factor contributing to adult depression. Furthermore, the research indicates a robust association between a combination of three types of childhood adversities – encompassing emotional and physical abuse, household dysfunction, and sexual abuse – and a heightened risk of depression in adulthood.

The authors write:

“All adverse childhood experiences, alone or in combination, are associated with an at least doubled risk of current depression. However, sexual abuse, experienced either alone or with household dysfunction or emotional/ physical abuse, is a relatively stronger risk factor for current depression than either household dysfunction or emotional/ physical abuse experienced alone.”

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Richard Sears
Richard Sears teaches psychology at West Georgia Technical College and is studying to receive a PhD in consciousness and society from the University of West Georgia. He has previously worked in crisis stabilization units as an intake assessor and crisis line operator. His current research interests include the delineation between institutions and the individuals that make them up, dehumanization and its relationship to exaltation, and natural substitutes for potentially harmful psychopharmacological interventions.


  1. Mad ACE 19MAR24

    My question is: What are the treatments for the onset of depression in adults who were raised by parents who didn’t know that they were damaging their children?

    I hope everyone acknowledges the growing evidence that consuming antidepressant pills are not the best answer, nor are antipsychotics. Children require more than pills, chemical-laden processed junk foods, and smart devices to occupy their thoughts, they require genuine love and a home that supports everyone.

    Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) are not the only problem that poverty of the mind and body will create, but the solution for that lies in early childhood interventions rather kicking their problems into the future.
    Environmental pollution has increased since I was born. Dinner tables today contain processed and ultra-processed foods that do not nourish the human brain and body.

    People abuse others in many different ways, but rarely are they held accountable because our system of justice, in the USA at least, is inadequate to address every transgression, but wait, psychiatry has the answer.

    There are chemicals to prescribe to the “damaged” that will lull the transgressed into nirvana so they can continue to function “under the influence” of their familial “no-it-alls” who declare that they don’t abuse their own kin as long as they’re following the moral code set forth in the Bible or Koran. Obey the boss and head of the household without reservation or criticism, and all will go will for awhile, at least.

    Capitalism has its winners and its losers, that’s life.

    For the losers, whose children will grow up in poverty of the body and in poverty of the mind, companies (who are now have the same rights as living Homo sapiens in America) will capitalize on the unfortunate by providing them expensive psychological and chemical treatments.

    So far, all the psychiatry and psychology in the world has failed to address and correct the root causes of poor education, biases, stigmas, and discrimination that often occurs covertly in families and business, especially nowadays when discrimination is overtly encouraged by those seeking an influential seat at the table whether in business or in government.


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    • Thank you for your explicit and direct comments. I see another layer of psychological abuse being placed on adult children of emotional neglect. May I please expand on an area of concern that needs to be greater examined, in my personal and professional opinion, as a retired education professional?

      There are so many ways that our country could best help our children and youth with better fresh diet, more societal family support, instead of sticking a bandaid on the problem, and sending them into their future. There are far deeper psychological issues that also lie beneath the conscious surface unless the mental health, family court, and legal professionals are paying close attention. They need greater training which segues into greater infrastructure in our societal family court system. They are failing our families!

      Profits over people is an endless looming force to be reckoned with.

      I am an emotional childhood neglect survivor today, who has paid for a high level of complex trauma intensive outpatient center treatment, segueing into partial hospitalization program, for a total of 8 weeks. I paid $20k out of my retirement fund because I’m now at my future, with the issues of poverty, major depression, anxiety, grief, loss, and being estranged from one adult child and alienated from my first adult child. I was raised with emotional neglect, and my precious adult children are experiencing a second generational legacy of psychological trauma now, as am I. The one parent would have benefited from mandated counseling and anger management left the scene unscathed and unaccountable 25 years ago. That psychological harm lives now inside my adult children, in the future. The future is now.

      The family court system doesn’t observe covert narcissistic abuse which causes parental alienation of the targeted parent, which has an enormous negative impact on my children, progressively into adulthood. My adult children are painfully suffering at their psychological abuse from their narcissistic father now, which I diligently tried to minimize in their childhood. The family court system needs to better train judges to not bring their own emotional baggage into the court room to further allow this harm to multiply. Guardian ad litems are attorneys, not social workers! They clearly don’t know what they are doing when affecting a pronounced conflict of interest and a lack of regard for the criminal law leg of family intervention. Their ignorance puts family’s are greater risk, which compounds this whole article which accentuates the sexual abuse in families, in tandem with household dysfunction, and allowing the psychologically damaged parent to continue to exponentially harm their young children because of the seemingly invisible, but abstract effects of parental alienation and narcissistic abuse. The wrong people are in therapy because the one who desperately needs it doesn’t actively believe they need therapy. They spew the psychological harm and blame off to the remaining family members.

      Psychologically damaged parents who chronically hate their ex more (for decades!) than love their children should be sent to prison.
      Yes, I speak from personal experience. I also have a degree in elementary education and early childhood development.

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