BOSTON --- Exposure to family arguments during adolescence has a lasting impact on an
individual's mental health and functioning as an adult, according to a study
published in the March edition of The Journal of the American Academy
of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
The longitudinal study, led by Simmons School of Social Work Professor
Helen Reinherz, shows adolescents who reported increased
arguments at age 15, compared with their peers, had an elevated risk of major
depression, alcohol abuse/dependence, drug dependence, and adult antisocial
behaviors at age 30. These participants also had a twofold risk for being
unemployed as adults.
The study, lead-authored by co-investigator Dr. Angela
Paradis of the Simmons Longitudinal Study, also shows that adolescents
who reported exposure to family violence by age 18 are significantly more likely
than their peers to have a mental disorder, including alcohol and drug
abuse/dependence, lower self-esteem, and lower overall life satisfaction at age
30. Additionally, the study indicates that overall physical health was
compromised by earlier exposure to family physical violence.
"It was no surprise that we found long-term effects of exposure to physical
violence, but the documentation of the potential lasting influence of verbal
conflict is significant," said Reinherz. "We believe that exposure to increased
family arguments in adolescence served as an important marker for impaired
functioning into adulthood."
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For 32 years, Reinherz has served as principal investigator of the Simmons
Longitudinal Study, the nation's longest-running study of predictors of good or
poor mental health from early childhood onward. Funded by the National Institute
of Mental Health and the Health Resources and Services Administration, the study
tracked nearly 400 residents of Quincy, Mass., from the
time they entered kindergarten in 1977 until their mid-30s today.
The research interviewed the children and their parents and teachers at key
points in the youths' lives, looking for major risk factors that are likely to
lead to mental health problems in adulthood, and for protective factors to serve
as buffers from life's rough spots. The study was designed to help parents,
teachers, mental health professionals, policy makers and others improve early
identification and treatment of mental health issues.
The study authors were Paradis, Reinherz, Dr. Rose Giaconia,
and Kirsten Ward of the Simmons Longitudinal Study, and Dr.
William Beardslee of Harvard Medical School, and Dr.
Garrett Fitzmaurice of the Harvard School of Public
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