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25-03-2017 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 5/2017

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 5/2017

Stress Processes Linking Parent–Child Disconnection to Disease Risk in Young Adulthood: Amplification by Genotype

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 5/2017
Dayoung Bae, Kandauda A. S. Wickrama


Previous studies have documented that early stressful family relationships influence subsequent stressful life circumstances and health outcomes over the life course. Less is known, however, about whether stressful parent-child relationships increase the influence of proximal stressors on youth health operating as a stress-sensitizing life context, and individual genetic variations have effects on these developmental processes. Informed by life course stress process theory, which focuses on the proliferation, accumulation, and interactions of stressors over the life course as health risks, we examined whether (a) parent–child disconnection influences the occurrence of stressful life events in young adulthood, (b) parent–child disconnection potentiates the impact of stressful life events on young adults’ health, or (c) potential health impact is intensified further by individual genotype. Using longitudinal data from a nationally representative sample of 11,290 adolescents (Mean age 15.5 years, 53% female) over a period of 13 years, we found parent–child disconnection influenced young adults’ stressful life events and amplified the impact of stressful life events on cardio-metabolic disease risk. We also found the association between stressful life events and cardio-metabolic disease risk was further intensified by the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism. Our findings demonstrate that stressful family relationships not only initiate stress processes over the early life course, but also sensitize youth to stressors, and that 5-HTTLPR polymorphism interacts with stressful life experiences to predict heightened disease risk.

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