The impact of early adversity on mental health in young adulthood: Findings from the Romanian Adoption Project

Date created: 
Extreme early adversity
Behaviour problems
Mental health disorders
Longitudinal study

This longitudinal study is a part of the fifth phase of the Romanian Adoption Project and explored the impact of early adversity on mental health and behaviour problems in adolescence and early adulthood in a group of Romanian adoptees (N= 47; 22 males; mean age at assessment= 26.77) who were adopted to Canada in 1990/91 and have been followed in this project since early childhood. Behaviour problems in adulthood were assessed with parent reports on the Adult Behaviour Checklists (ABCL, Achenbach, 1997). In adolescence behaviour problems were assessed with the parent report form of the Child Behaviour Checklist (Achenbach, 1991). Mental health problems both in adolescence and adulthood were assessed using parents’ responses to 12 questions asking if adoptees had received any of a list of mental health diagnosis. The effect of duration of deprivation was examined by dividing adoptees into two groups based on time they spent in adversity pre-adoption; those who spent less than 4 months in adversity, and those who spent more than 8 months in adversity. Statistical analyses showed that in adolescence 34% of the sample had at least one mental health diagnosis and this number increased to 50% in adulthood. Levels of behaviour problems were relatively stable from adolescence to adulthood. Females had higher levels of Internalizing behaviour problems than males in adulthood, but no other gender differences were found. Adolescents with more behaviour problems were more likely to have a mental health diagnosis in young adulthood. Also, adoptees with more than one diagnosis in adulthood had more behaviour problems both concurrently and in adolescence than adoptees with one or no mental health diagnoses. Longer experience of early adversity prior adoption was not associated with either more mental health diagnoses or more behaviour problems at either 16.5 or 26.5 years of age.

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Senior supervisor: 
Lucy Le Mare
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.