Patterns of exposure to adverse childhood experiences and their associations with mental health: a survey of 1346 university students in East Asia
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) constitute a significant global mental health burden. Prior studies typically investigated the impact of ACEs on mental health using a cumulative risk approach; most ACEs studies were also conducted in Western settings.
This study aimed to examine ACEs using a pattern-based approach and assess their associations with mental health outcomes by early adulthood in East Asia.
The present study included measures of exposure to 13 categories of ACEs, depression, anxiety, maladjustment, and posttraumatic stress in a sample of 1346 university students from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Japan.
Latent class analysis indicated three distinct patterns of ACE exposure: Class 1: Low ACEs (76.0%); Class 2: Household Violence (20.6%); and Class 3: Household Dysfunction (3.4%). Those representing Class 3 had significantly more ACEs compared with those in Classes 1 or 2. Controlling for age and sex, those in Class 2 reported significantly higher depression and maladjustment symptoms compared with those in Class 1; both Classes 2 and 3 had significantly higher anxiety symptoms and odds for meeting diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorders compared with those in Class 1.
Study findings suggest that young adults’ mental health, at least under certain contexts, is more closely linked with the nature and pattern of ACE co-occurrence, rather than the number of ACEs.
KeywordsAdverse childhood experiences East Asia Latent class analysis Mental health Young adults
This study was supported by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Internal Start-Up Fund.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
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