The scars of childhood adversity: minor stress sensitivity and depressive symptoms in remitted recurrently depressed adult patients

G. D. Kok, G. Van Rijsbergen, H. Burger, H. J. Elgersma, H. Riper, P. Cuijpers, J. Dekker, F. Smit, C. L. H. Bockting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Childhood adversity may lead to depressive relapse through its long-lasting influence on stress sensitivity. In line with the stress sensitization hypothesis, minor (daily) stress is associated with depressive relapse. Therefore, we examine the impact of childhood adversity on daily stress and its predictive value on prospectively assessed depressive symptoms in recurrently depressed patients.

METHOD: Daily stress was assessed in recurrently depressed adult patients, enrolled into two randomized trials while remitted. The reported intensity and frequency of dependent and independent daily stress was assessed at baseline. Independent stress is externally generated, for example an accident happening to a friend, while dependent stress is internally generated, for example getting into a fight with a neighbor. Hierarchical regression analyses were performed with childhood adversity, independent and dependent daily stress as predictor variables of prospectively measured depressive symptoms after three months of follow-up (n?=?138).

RESULTS: We found that childhood adversity was not significantly associated with a higher frequency and intensity of daily stress. The intensity of both independent and dependent daily stress was predictive of depressive symptom levels at follow-up (unadjusted models respectively: B?=?0.47, t?=?2.05, p?=?0.041, 95% CI?=?0.02-0.92; B?=?0.29, t?=?2.20, p?=?0.028, 95% CI?=?0.03-0.55). No associations were found between childhood adversity and depressive symptoms at follow-up.

CONCLUSION: No evidence was found supporting stress sensitization due to the experience of childhood adversity in this recurrently depressed but remitted patient group. Nevertheless, our research indicates that daily stress might be a target for preventive treatment.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Trial A: Nederlands Trial Register NTR1907 Trial B: Nederlands Trial Register NTR2503.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere111711
JournalPLoS One
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • trauma, childhood trauma, stress, depressive disorder, relapse, recurrence


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