Browse/search for people

Publication - Dr Jon Heron

    Pathways between early life adversity and adolescent self-harm

    the mediating role of inflammation in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)

    Citation

    Russell, A, Heron, J, Gunnell, D, Ford, T, Hemani, G, Joinson, C, Moran, P, Relton, C, Suderman, M & Mars, B, 2019, ‘Pathways between early life adversity and adolescent self-harm: the mediating role of inflammation in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)’. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol 60., pp. 1094 - 1103

    Abstract

    Background 

    Adverse
    childhood experiences (ACEs) such as physical and emotional abuse are strongly associated
    with self-harm, but mechanisms underlying this relationship are unclear.  Inflammation has been linked to both the
    experience of ACEs and self-harm or suicide in prior research. This is the
    first study to examine whether inflammatory markers mediate the association
    between exposure to ACEs and self-harm.



    Methods

    Participants
    were 4,308 young people from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and
    Children (ALSPAC); a population-based birth cohort in the UK. A
    structural equation modelling approach was used to fit a mediation model with the
    number of ACEs experienced between ages 0-9 years, levels of the inflammatory
    markers interleukin-6 and c-reactive protein measured at 9.5 years, and
    self-harm reported at 16 years old.



    Results

    The
    mean number of ACEs young people experienced was 1.41 (SE 0.03). Higher ACE
    scores were associated with an increased risk of self-harm at 16 (direct effect
    Relative Risk (RR) per additional ACE 1.11, 95% CI 1.05, 1.18, p<0.001). We
    did not find evidence of an indirect effect of ACEs on self-harm via inflammation
    (RR 1.00, 95% CI 1.00, 1.01, p=0.38).



    Conclusions

    Young people who have been exposed to ACEs are a group
    at high risk of self-harm. The association between ACEs and self-harm does not
    appear to be mediated by an inflammatory process in childhood, as indexed by
    peripheral levels of circulating inflammatory markers measured in childhood. Further
    research is needed to identify alternative psychological and biological
    mechanisms underlying this relationship.

    Full details in the University publications repository