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Childhood Family Connection and Adult Flourishing: Associations Across Levels of Childhood Adversity

  • Robert C. Whitaker
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Robert C. Whitaker, MD, MPH, Bassett Medical Center, One Atwell Road, Cooperstown, NY 13326
    Affiliations
    Columbia-Bassett Program, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University (RC Whitaker, T Dearth-Wesley, and AN Herman), New York, NY

    Columbia-Bassett Program, Bassett Medical Center (RC Whitaker, T Dearth-Wesley, and AN Herman), Cooperstown, NY

    Bassett Research Institute, Bassett Medical Center (RC Whitaker, T Dearth-Wesley, and AN Herman), Cooperstown, NY

    Department of Pediatrics, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University (RC Whitaker), New York, NY
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  • Tracy Dearth-Wesley
    Affiliations
    Columbia-Bassett Program, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University (RC Whitaker, T Dearth-Wesley, and AN Herman), New York, NY

    Columbia-Bassett Program, Bassett Medical Center (RC Whitaker, T Dearth-Wesley, and AN Herman), Cooperstown, NY

    Bassett Research Institute, Bassett Medical Center (RC Whitaker, T Dearth-Wesley, and AN Herman), Cooperstown, NY
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  • Allison N. Herman
    Affiliations
    Columbia-Bassett Program, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University (RC Whitaker, T Dearth-Wesley, and AN Herman), New York, NY

    Columbia-Bassett Program, Bassett Medical Center (RC Whitaker, T Dearth-Wesley, and AN Herman), Cooperstown, NY

    Bassett Research Institute, Bassett Medical Center (RC Whitaker, T Dearth-Wesley, and AN Herman), Cooperstown, NY
    Search for articles by this author
Published:March 10, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2021.03.002

      Abstract

      Objective

      To investigate whether higher levels of childhood family connection were associated with greater adult flourishing and if this association was present across levels of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and childhood socioeconomic disadvantage (SED).

      Methods

      We pooled cross-sectional data from telephone and mailed surveys in the Midlife in the United States study that were collected from 2 nationally representative cohorts (2004–06 and 2011–14) of English-speaking, US adults, aged 25 to 74 years. Adult flourishing z score, standardized to the study population, was created from Ryff's 42-item Psychological Well-being Scale and quartiles of childhood family connection from a 7-item scale assessing parental attention, affection, and communication during childhood.

      Results

      Data were analyzed for the 4199 (72.0% of 5834) participants with complete data. The mean age of participants was 53.9 years and 85.4% were White. After adjusting for covariates, including adult chronic disease, ACEs, and childhood and current SED, mean (95% CI) flourishing z scores increased from the lowest to highest quartiles of family connection: −0.41 (−0.49, −0.33), −0.18 (−0.25, −0.12), −0.01 (−0.07, 0.06), and 0.25 (0.18, 0.32), respectively. For each 1 SD increase in the family connection score, there was a 0.25 (95% CI, 0.20, 0.29) unit increase in the adjusted flourishing z score. This positive association was also present across levels of ACEs and childhood SED.

      Conclusions

      Greater childhood family connection was associated with greater flourishing in US adults across levels of childhood adversity. Supporting family connection in childhood may influence flourishing decades later, even with early adversity.

      Keywords

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