Childhood Adversity Linked to Earlier Puberty, Premature Brain Development, and Greater Mental Fatigue

LANSING, Mich. – Young adults in which mothers were grade-mates or close friends were more likely to experience physical and mental fatigue by the time they reached puberty, suggesting that childhood adversity may have a long-term impact on adolescents’ mental health. The study also found the likelihood of children’s emotional and behavioral health the following year was also greater. Kathleen Lorentzen, U-M psychology research professor, said her team harnessed the differences seen in the general population – by examining the data specifically from U.S. adolescents – in order to prove the presence of pubertal depression, one of the predominant depression symptoms in girls aged 12 and 19. For the study, Lorentzen and colleagues analyzed pre-pubertal depressive symptoms for 247,302 high school students, ages 12 to 19, from four states. These students were divided into two groups: 54% were those whose mothers “supervised” their children outside of school, while the remaining 56% were in the control. The researchers analyzed the children’s mental acuity by measuring its ability to control attention, generate a simple thought, and focus attention on a task. Scientists compared the ability of children with and without parental supervision – which was defined as no assistance from a parent or caregiver – to different categories of pubertal depression. The group that was supervised had seven times the odds of experiencing pubertal depression, Lorentzen said. Pupil depressive symptoms, which reached levels that could affect physical strength as well as mental fatigue, also fell by the same amount. “These results are really actionable,” Lorentzen said. “We don’t want to scare the stiggers because the numbers might be small because these are relatively mild symptoms, so that we can get our estimate of the prevalence of pediatric mental illness that we can use to guide who we target for interventions.” Preterm birth, birth in early utero, and delivered by cesarean section, all were associated with more pubertal depression. “Puberty is a critical time when the brain matures and maturing brain does take place,” said Lorentzen, who is also an associate professor at the U-M Institute of Social and Behavioral Neuroscience. “It is associated with acceleration of changes in general brain development.” In these cases, “I would predict there are a number of services that are available to these children in which they can focus their education, socialization, and career development.” She said that individuals with pubertal depression may be able to find help through substance abuse treatment programs and positive parenting, such as laughing, making social jokes, and using humor to make themselves laugh. Both are nurturance interventions, Lorentzen said. She said youth’s emotional needs “can add up.” “Early on they don’t graduate or start college. Their hormones don’t meet their needs. And then it’s hard to turn things around,” she said. “It can start to become a vicious cycle.” LORENTZEN, Kathleen A., Jennifer L., Scherones M. , Frauke K., and Jennifer N.Dorff M.D. , with collaborators Dr. Sarah F. Diaz and Dr. Carola Dario, accessed the National Center for Health Statistics database to identify, for all cities in the US, all adolescents aged 9-19. To increase data accuracy, LORENTZEN and her coauthors included only respondents in academic medical centers and Kaiser Permanente centers, as well as all adolescents in federally funded school-aged families. CHICAGO – Kell School of Nursing graduate students Annabel Contreras, Kristin Rosasbon, and Hanlee Rowland completed the APSA Physical Activity for Sales and Health Professionals (PATH) questionnaire, part of the Health Professionals Active Community Study, originally developed in the context of health career development and risks. Results were released in September 2017 as an open access publication via the American Journal of Public Health. The study “provides preliminary responses to key questions, including youth physical activity and health behavior,” Contreras said. The authors concluded that “skeletal and musculoskeletal health are important indicators of overall health. Budgets to improve physical and mental function are important to promote wellness. Positive health behaviors are also important for everyone.” The findings of this research are reported in the American Medical Student Nurse Update, posted online by the American Psychological Association, and in the online APSA Symposium on Physical Activity. The findings appear as a set of articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). JAMAOnline: female nurse researchers (@DrKellJanel), MJNs,