The impact of childhood family adversity on nighttime change in blood pressure
Adverse childhood family environments have been found to have long-term effects on a child's well-being. Although no prior studies have examined the direct effects of childhood family adversities on nighttime blood pressure (BP) dip, parental death and divorce in childhood, have been associated with a variety of related psychological problems in adulthood. The current study examined the direct effects of parental death and divorce in childhood and quality of early family relationships on adult nighttime BP dip as well as the mediating role of three psychosocial factors (depression, hostility and social stress). One hundred and forty-three young adults were asked to complete self-reported measures of the three psychosocial factors and quality of family relationships. Study participants wore an ambulatory blood pressure (ABP) monitor over a 24-hr period in order to assess nocturnal BP dip. Although neither childhood family adversity nor quality of childhood family relationships directly predicted nighttime BP dipping, quality of early family relationships predicted all three psychosocial factors, and hostility was found to mediate the relationship between quality of childhood family relationships and nighttime systolic BP dip. Early family experiences play an important role in influencing nighttime cardiovascular functioning by influencing an individual's psychological functioning in young adulthood. Because nighttime non-dipping has been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease and other serious health conditions, the results of the present study have important clinical implications and provide specific psychosocial pathways that may be targeted in future programs designed to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease.