This study examines this relationship between positive childhood experiences and adult depression in two additional populations: caregivers accessing a Family Resource Center (FRC) and caregivers bringing a young child to well-child visits (WCV) within a large healthcare system in Wisconsin. This study also explores the relationship between a history of positive childhood experiences and other indicators of parental well-being, as well as parenting behaviors in adulthood.
Methods: Cross-sectional survey data were used from a project that identified strategies for asking about known correlates of child maltreatment in strengths-oriented ways (i.e., positive vs. adverse childhood experiences) in two populations, FRC (N=322) and WCV (N=190). The majority of respondents in the sample were white (86%), identified as female (93%), and were age 25-44 (79%). The sample included caregivers with varying education levels, as well as caregivers experiencing a range of economic hardship. Respondents represented all geographical regions in Wisconsin.
Positive childhood experiences were measured using the CCE scale, which includes items that assess the frequency of safe, stable, and nurturing experiences within a family. Parenting behaviors included constructs such as confidence and competence, measured through a series of scales. Parental well-being was measured using depression and alcohol or drug abuse (AODA) scales. The depression scale was an adapted version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale-Revised. The AODA scale was collapsed into a dichotomous indicator of substance use. Analytic strategies included OLS, logistic and poisson regression. Demographic and health indicators were used as covariates in regression models.
Results: In the combined sample (controlling for subgroup and other covariates), having a history of positive experiences in childhood is associated with increased parental confidence and competence, and a decrease in adult depressive symptoms. Furthermore, higher scores on the CCE scale are associated with a decreased odds of AODA. In subgroup analyses, an increase in positive experiences in childhood is associated with significant changes in parenting behaviors and parental depression for the FRC sample. In the WCV sample, positive childhood experiences are associated with positive changes in parenting behaviors and parental well-being.
Conclusions and Implications: These findings highlight the utility of a strength-based approach in determining childhood influences on parenting behaviors and indicators of parental well-being. This study also echoes the results of earlier work demonstrating that positive experiences in childhood are associated with a decrease in depressive symptoms. The CCE scale is a novel way to collect information on childhood experiences that may be less prone to client re-traumatization than traditional risk-oriented assessment tools.