Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Youth Adversities Amplify the Association between Adult Stressors and Chronic Inflammation in a Domain Specific Manner: Nuancing the Early Life Sensitivity Model

  • Ronald L. SimonsEmail author
  • David Woodring
  • Leslie Gordon Simons
  • Tara E. Sutton
  • Man-Kit Lei
  • Steven R. H. Beach
  • Ashley B. Barr
  • Frederick X. Gibbons
Empirical Research


There is strong evidence that chronic, systemic inflammation hastens onset of the diseases of old age that ultimately lead to death. Importantly, several studies suggest that childhood adversity predicts chronic inflammation. Unfortunately, this research has been plagued by retrospective reports of childhood adversity, an absence of controls for adult stressors, and a failure to investigate various competing models of the link between childhood adversity and chronic inflammation. The present study was designed to address these limitations. Using 18 years of data collected from 413 African Americans (58% female) included in the Family and Community Health Study, hierarchical regression analyses provided support for a nuanced early life sensitivity explanation for the link between early adversity and adult chronic inflammation. Controlling for health risk behaviors and adult SES, late childhood (ages 10–12) adversity amplified the association between adult adversity (age 29) and chronic inflammation. This interaction operated in a domain-specific fashion. Harsh parenting amplified the relation between intimate partner hostility and inflammation, whereas early discrimination amplified the relation between adult discrimination and inflammation. These findings suggest that individuals may be primed to respond physiologically to adverse adult circumstances that resemble those experienced earlier in life.


Childhood adversity Discrimination Early life sensitivity model Harsh parenting Inflammation 


Authors’ Contributions

R.L.S. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, and drafted the manuscript; D.W. performed much of the statistical analysis for the study; L.G.S. conceived the study, participated in the its design and coordination, and assisted in drafting the manuscript; M.K.L. participated in the construction of measures, statistical analysis, and interpretation of the data; S.R.H.B. participated in design of the study and helped draft the manuscript; A.B.B. participated in conception of the study and assisted in writing the manuscript; F.X.G. participated in the design and coordination of the study and helped write the manuscript.


This work was supported by the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute (R01 HL118045), the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD080749), the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG055393), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R21 DA034457), and the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH62699, R01 MH62666). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Standards of ethical responsibility have been followed. None of the findings in this paper have been published elsewhere. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. The order of authorship reflects the relative level of contribution make by each of the authors. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The Institutional Review Board of the University of Georgia approval the study and its informed consent procedures.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10964_2018_977_MOESM1_ESM.docx (40 kb)
Supplementary Information


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald L. Simons
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Woodring
    • 1
  • Leslie Gordon Simons
    • 1
  • Tara E. Sutton
    • 1
  • Man-Kit Lei
    • 2
  • Steven R. H. Beach
    • 3
  • Ashley B. Barr
    • 4
  • Frederick X. Gibbons
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Center for Family ResearchUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  4. 4.Department of SociologySUNY BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  5. 5.Department of Psychological SciencesUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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