Methods: The data source used was drawn from the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE II), which is one of the ancillary projects of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS). A total of 2,022 participants in the NSDE II completed short telephone interviews across eight consecutive days about their daily experiences in 2004-2009. We analyzed a total of 14,912 daily interviews from these respondents whose average age was 56 years old. A series of multi-level modeling analyses were conducted to examine research aims. First, we examined the two-way interaction between maternal/paternal childhood abuse and daily stress exposure on daily negative affect. To address the second aim, we examined the three-way interaction between maternal/paternal childhood abuse, daily stress exposure, and self-esteem/perceived social relations on daily negative affect.
Results: Results showed that adults with more frequent maternal childhood abuse exhibited higher emotional reactivity to daily stressors (b = 0.02, p < 0.05). We did not find a significant difference in emotional reactivity to daily stressors in regard to the experience of paternal childhood abuse. Further, there was a significant three-way interaction among maternal childhood abuse, daily stress exposure, and low levels of self-esteem (b = 0.02, p < 0.01) on daily negative affect. Specifically, adults with more frequent maternal childhood abuse showed higher emotional reactivity to daily stressors, and this association was more pronounced for those with lower levels of self-esteem. This significant three-way interaction was found when respondents experienced non-interpersonal stressors (e.g., academic/work difficulties).
Conclusions and implications: Our findings suggest that a history of maternal childhood abuse and low self-esteem may serve as vulnerability factors in the process of experiencing and responding to stressful events encountered in daily life for adults, which may have long-lasting implications for health. Interventions for these adults should focus on promoting emotional resilience in the face of daily stress, as well as enhancing their overall levels of self-esteem. Future research should explore the long-term health effects of daily stress and emotional experiences, as well as the role of other intermediaries (i.e., social support, relational strains) associated with the daily and long-term health of adults with a history of childhood abuse.