The relationship of early social, mental, and behavioral experiences with adult obesity and Alcohol Use Disorder
O'Neill, Allison Hunt
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Stressful life events early in life, including symptoms of mental disorders or childhood maltreatment, may increase risk for worse mental and physical health outcomes in adulthood. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the effects of childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms and maltreatment experience on two adult outcomes: obesity and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Mediational effects of adolescent characteristics were explored. This dissertation used Waves I, III, and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. In Paper 1 (Chapter 3), we investigated the association between multiple types of child maltreatment and adult objective (body mass index; BMI) and subjective (self-rated) obesity, as well as mediating effects by adolescent characteristics including depressive symptoms and BMI. Results showed that after adjusting for sex, race/ethnicity, and maternal education, physical maltreatment was moderately associated with adulthood obesity as measured by BMI and self-reported obesity, while sexual maltreatment was more strongly associated with the objective measure but not the subjective measure. The indirect effects of mediation of adolescent BMI and depressive symptoms were statistically significant. In Paper 2 (Chapter 4), the objective was to examine mediation by adolescent depressive symptoms, alcohol consumption, peer alcohol consumption, and delinquency in the relationship between ADHD symptoms and adult AUD. The indirect effects of mediation of adolescent delinquency, alcohol consumption, and peer alcohol consumption were statistically significant in single and multiple mediator models. In Paper 3 (Chapter 5), the objective was to assess the joint effects of maltreatment/neglect on adult AUD. After adjusting for sex, race/ethnicity, child maltreatment, and parental AUD, ADHD symptoms were significantly associated with increased odds of AUD. There was no strong evidence of multiplicative interaction by maltreatment. This association was stronger for males than females, although the interaction term was not statistically significant. This dissertation adds to the literature by examining relationships between several major public health problems: ADHD symptoms, childhood maltreatment, AUD, depressive symptoms, and obesity. This project has implications for understanding how early life stress increases risk for later physical and mental health problems, and identifying potential intervention targets for adolescents.