University Study Finds That Early Childhood Trauma Impacts Women’s Health at Midlife

A new study led by Kristi Williams, a professor of sociology at Ohio State University, finds that women who experienced childhood trauma were more likely than others to have their first child both earlier in life and outside of marriage – and that those factors were associated with poorer health later in life. Early childhood trauma is “shockingly” common in the United States, the researchers said in the study. One national study conducted between 1995 and 1997 found that only 36 percent of respondents reported having no such adverse childhood experiences.

The authors suggest that early trauma – such as the death of a parent, physical abuse or emotional neglect – may affect young people’s decision-making in ways that they can’t entirely control.

“It’s easy to tell teens that they shouldn’t have kids before marriage, but the message won’t be effective if they haven’t developed the capacity to do that because of trauma they experienced in childhood,” Professor Williams said. “It may be necessary to do different kinds of interventions and do them when children are younger.”

Professor Williams joined the faculty at Ohio State University in 2002. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago.

The research paper, “Adverse Childhood Experiences, Early and Nonmarital Fertility, and Women’s Health at Midlife,” was published in the Journal of Health and Behavior. It may be accessed here.

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