Can childhood experiences provoke depression in adults?
This fits with the cognitive view that insecure attachments can lead to the development of dysfunctional attitudes, in turn increases the risk of depression. Further evidence comes from, Roberts, Gotlib and Kassel they conducted three studies investigating the relationship between adult attachment style and depression and whether it is mediated by dysfunctional attitudes and low self-esteem. The results also support the idea that insecure attachments are associated with dysfunctional attitudes. These results go even further by showing dysfunctional attitudes increase vulnerability to low self-esteem, which in turn leads to depression. Although these studies used adult participants and measured adult attachment style, there is evidence for a strong continuity of attachment styles throughout the lifespan. Longitudinal studies such as Waters, Winfield and Hamilton have demonstrated up to 75% stability between infant and adult attachment classifications. If it is the case that attachments remain stable throughout life, then this supports the idea of attachment style being a factor from early life environment linked to depression. Overall, the evidence seems to suggest that it isn’t the attachment style itself rather developing an insecure attachment predisposes individuals to other risk factors that lead to depression such as dysfunctional attitudes.
Another factor that occurs in early life environment and has been linked to depression is adverse childhood events/experiences (ACE). ACE’s include several things such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect and household dysfunction. ACE’s are of high prevalence, in their study, Kessler et al found 38% have one ACE, and 9.2% have more than four. Chapman et al carried out a retrospective cohort study with 9460 adults. They completed a survey assessing past and recent depressive disorders, childhood abuse and family dysfunction. A strong relationship between the number of ACEs and the lifetime prevalence of depressive disorders was found. These results indicate that ACEs can increase the risk of developing depression, even decades after they occur. However, it can’t be ruled out that there are other factors that may have occurred in early life or later that led to the development of depression.