Infant Health and Future Childhood Adversity

Publication Year


Journal Article

To investigate the extent to which disabling infant health conditions are associated with adverse childhood experiences at age 5.

We conducted a secondary analysis of data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a national urban birth cohort. We estimated logistic regression models of associations between the presence of a disabling infant health condition and the child's ACE exposures at age 5, controlling for factors that preceded the child's birth, including the mother's sociodemographic characteristics, physical health, mental illness, and substance abuse and the parents' criminal justice system involvement and domestic violence or sexual abuse. ACEs included 4 categories of child maltreatment (physical, sexual, psychological abuse, neglect) and 5 categories of household dysfunction (father absence, substance use, mental illness, caregiver treated violently, incarceration).

3.3% of the children were characterized as having a disabling health condition that was likely present at birth. Logistic regression estimates indicate that having a disabling infant health condition was associated with 83% higher odds of the child experiencing 2 or more ACEs (AOR 1.83, CI 1.14–2.94) and 73% higher odds of the child experiencing 3 or more ACEs (AOR 1.73, CI 1.07–2.77) at age 5.

Conclusions for Practice
he finding of strong links between disabling infant health conditions and ACEs at age 5 suggests that child health and ACEs play intertwining and mutually reinforcing roles during the early lifecourse and highlights the critical importance of investing in systems that simultaneously promote optimal child development and address childhood adversity.

Maternal and Child Health Journal