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Resilience through Adversity

Title: Resilience through Adversity: Mapping out the Mechanisms through Which Early Life Adversity Influences Health across the Lifespan.
Name(s): Sheffler, Julia L. (Julia Lynn), author
Sachs-Ericsson, Natalie J., professor directing dissertation
Taylor, Miles G., 1976-, university representative
Ganley, Colleen M., committee member
Charness, Neil, committee member
Cougle, Jesse R., 1975-, committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Arts and Sciences, degree granting college
Department of Psychology, degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Doctoral Thesis
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2017
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (84 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Background. Considerable research has demonstrated the link between early life adversity (ELA) and the development of significant health problems in adulthood (Felitti et al., 1998; Gilbert et al., 2015). Regarding the specific biological pathways through which ELAs influence the development of physical health conditions, there is a growing literature examining the effects of ELA on allostatic load. Allostatic load represents the biological toll of stress on the body and may act as a biological pathway through which ELAs influence later health. Importantly, identification of modifiable factors that increase resiliency to the negative effects of ELAs on allostatic systems may lead to the development of prevention and intervention protocols. Finally, the interplay among these variables (e.g., ELAs, allostatic load, resiliency, health functioning) may change with age – thus, it is informative to examine these factors across age groups. Specifically, the current study examined a biopsychosocial model of the effects of ELA on adult health in which we conducted an empirical exploration of the effects of resiliency factors on the relationship between ELAs, allostatic load, and health. Methods. The current study used longitudinal data from three waves of the Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) study to examine the following hypotheses. 1) ELAs would lead to higher allostatic load, which would, in-turn, be associated with higher rates of health conditions over time. 2) Resiliency factors would each moderate the relationship between ELAs and allostatic load, reducing the negative effects of ELAs on allostatic load. 3) Lastly, we explored the extent to which these proposed pathways in the full model differed as a function of age. Results. ELA predicted onset of new health conditions among middle-aged adults. Allostatic load partially mediated the relationship between ELA and later health conditions. None of the resiliency factors moderated the relationship between ELA and allostatic load, although ELA was associated with three of the resiliency factors, and all four resiliency factors were related to fewer health conditions at MIDUS III. Finally, there were no differences based on age in the full mediation model. Conclusions. ELA was strongly associated with lower levels of resiliency resources and later health outcomes, even decades following the occurrence of ELA. Allostatic load partially mediated the relationship between ELA and later health, though the effect was weaker than expected. Our findings suggest that ELA and resiliency resources may have more specialized influences on allostatic systems and system biomarkers, which should be examined in future research. Clinical implications of the study point to the continued use of a cumulative indicator for ELA assessment. Finally, the development of interventions to promote certain resiliency resources may be useful in clinical settings to reduce the impact of ELA on later health.
Identifier: 2018_Su_Sheffler_fsu_0071E_13963 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Psychology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Summer Semester 2017.
Date of Defense: June 8, 2017.
Keywords: aging, allostatic load, Early life adversity, Health, resilience
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Natalie Sachs-Ericsson, Professor Directing Dissertation; Miles Taylor, University Representative; Colleen Ganley, Committee Member; Neil Charness, Committee Member; Jesse Cougle, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Psychology
Persistent Link to This Record:
Host Institution: FSU

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Sheffler, J. L. (J. L. ). (2017). Resilience through Adversity: Mapping out the Mechanisms through Which Early Life Adversity Influences Health across the Lifespan. Retrieved from