Childhood victimization and inflammation in young adulthood: A genetically sensitive cohort study

Brain, Behavior, and Immunity

Volume 67, January 2018, Pages 211-217

Jessie R.Baldwina



Helen L.Fishera

Terrie E.Moffittabc

Candice L.Odgerscde










aMRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK

bDepartment of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

cDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

dDepartment of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA

eSanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

fDepartment of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK

gDepartment of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK

hNational and Specialist CAMHS Trauma and Anxiety Clinic, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

Received 22 June 2017, Revised 15 August 2017, Accepted 24 August 2017, Available online 1 September 2017.

Under a Creative Commons license open access


•Childhood victimization predicted elevated levels of CRP at age 18

•The association between child victimization and CRP levels was specific to females.

•Latent genetic influences on CRP levels did not explain the association in females.



Childhood victimization is an important risk factor for later immune-related disorders. Previous evidence has demonstrated that childhood victimization is associated with elevated levels of inflammation biomarkers measured decades after exposure. However, it is unclear whether this association is (1) already detectable in young people, (2) different in males and females, and (3) confounded by genetic liability to inflammation. Here we sought to address these questions.


Participants were 2232 children followed from birth to age 18 years as part of the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study. Childhood victimization was measured prospectively from birth to age 12 years. Inflammation was measured through C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in dried blood spots at age 18 years. Latent genetic liability for high inflammation levels was assessed through a twin-based method.


Greater exposure to childhood victimization was associated with higher CRP levels at age 18 (serum-equivalent means were 0.65 in non-victimized Study members, 0.74 in those exposed to one victimization type, and 0.81 in those exposed to poly-victimization; p = 0.018). However, this association was driven by a significant association in females (serum-equivalent means were 0.75 in non-victimized females, 0.87 in those exposed to one type of victimization, and 1.19 in those exposed to poly-victimization; p = 0.010), while no significant association was observed in males (p = 0.19). Victimized females showed elevated CRP levels independent of latent genetic influence, as well as childhood socioeconomic status, and waist-hip ratio and body temperature at the time of CRP assessment.


Childhood victimization is associated with elevated CRP levels in young women, independent of latent genetic influences and other key risk factors. These results strengthen causal inference about the effects of childhood victimization on inflammation levels in females by accounting for potential genetic confounding.

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About S. R. Zelenz 119 Articles
S.R. Zelenz has worked in education for 20 years. Working with students from all walks of life, cultures, races, and social diversity, Zelenz’s research in Educational Leadership led to finding a better way to approach learning for students with trauma histories. Many were juvenile offenders, gang members, diagnosed with varying behavioral disorders, or had family histories of violence, murder, or narcissistic parenting. This research could not be effectively accomplished without further understanding: how epigenetic trauma inheritance may be impacting these students; how brain development from trauma may be impacting their behavioral and emotional development; as well as deep understanding of psychology and its varying classifications for behavioral and personality disorders. The goal is to find solutions for changing the conversation and making a real difference for these students. She has also worked with nonprofits of varying focus areas for the last 25 years. Her undergraduate degree in Arts Administration and Music prepared her for managing nonprofits of any size as well as procuring funding so that they can achieve their goals. Pairing her nonprofit background with her education background, she has been able to make a difference for over 200 nonprofits worldwide, written curriculum for schools across the globe, and assisted many arts organizations through performance and management.