Background: Current interventions for adverse childhood experiences have only limited effectiveness.
Objective: We sought to identify optimal targets for the development of new interventions against adverse childhood experiences (ACE), that is, ACEs that a) are so central in the network of childhood adversity that curbing them is likely to impact other types of adversity, too, and b) are so central to the link of childhood adversity and adult mental ill-health that curbing them is likely to prevent this negative long-term effect from developing.
Participants and setting: 384 adult psychiatric inpatients.
Methods: Using the R packages qgraph and IsingFit, we analyzed the ACE network and the common network of ACEs and adult mental disorders.
Results: We found two clusters of ACEs: direct interactions with the child and indirect traumatization via adverse circumstances. When controlling for interrelatedness, the associations of sexual abuse with posttraumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder were the only direct links between ACEs and adult mental disorders.
Conclusions: As neglect and violence against the mother were the most influential ACEs, curbing them is likely to destabilize the whole network of adversity. Thus, neglect and violence against the mother lend themselves as candidate targets for the development of new interventions. As sexual abuse was the only link between childhood adversity and adult mental ill-health, interventions against it seem most likely to keep this negative long-term effect from developing. Further, ideally prospective, research is needed to corroborate these findings.