Emotional Support As a Mechanism Linking Childhood Maltreatment and Adult's Depressive and Social Anxiety Symptoms

Document Type


Publication Date



Child and Family Studies


Background: Research has well-established that childhood maltreatment is associated with depressive and social anxiety symptoms in adults. Emotional support has been proposed as a mediator, yet research investigating the unique contributions of emotional support from friends, family members, and romantic partners in adulthood is sparse.

Objective: The current study tested emotional support from family, friends, and romantic partners as mechanisms linking childhood maltreatment to depressive and social anxiety symptoms in adults.

Participants and setting: Participants for the current study (N = 798) included adults in a committed romantic relationship and completed both the second wave of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS 2) as well as the MIDUS 2 biomarker follow-up project. Emotional support from family, friends, and romantic partners was measured at MIDUS 2 and mental health symptoms were reported at the MIDUS 2 biomarker follow up.

Results: Emotional support from friends was identified as a mechanism from maltreatment to social anxiety symptoms (ß = .04, 95 % CI [.019, .066]), emotional support from family members was a mechanism to depressive symptoms (ß = .09, 95 % CI [.045, .146]), and emotional support from romantic partners was a mechanism for both depressive (ß = .02, 95 % CI [.005, .048]) and social anxiety symptoms (ß = .03, 95 % CI [.008, .048]).

Conclusions: The current study documents that emotional support may be a mechanism linking childhood maltreatment to mental health symptoms. Emotional support from different sources appear to be of significant importance in understanding adult mental health. Clinical implications are discussed.

Publication Title

Child Abuse and Neglect



Find in your library